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SAT Prep in the Age of Corona

It all happened so quickly. We were preparing diligently for the March SAT when suddenly the College Board cut that exam. Less than a week later, they cancelled the May SAT. We rallied, focusing on getting ready for the June exam, but then that one was cancelled as well. So much of life in the shadow of the corona virus is frustrating and frightening, and these repeated cancellations have made it seem impossible to plan for a future after high school. But there are still important steps we can take to care for ourselves in the present and prepare for the future.

What should we focus on?
Our first priority has to be our health, both physical and mental. Standardized tests remain an important part of the application process for most colleges, but it’s fine to step away from them if you’re feeling too overwhelmed by the current difficulties to truly prepare for them. Sometimes we just have to take life a day at a time, and academic achievement means nothing if it costs you your well-being. These tests, and the resources to help you get ready for them, will be here for you when the time is right.

When will the SAT exams be offered again?
It’s extremely likely that the next SAT exams (August, September, and October) will take place. The College Board simply cannot tolerate a year without SAT exams, as it would show the world that the college admission process can exist just fine without this test. So they are highly motivated to make these summer and fall exams happen. That said, there may be some modifications. While the next three SAT exams might take place on their expected dates and at test centers, it’s also possible that these exams will take place online or on staggered dates.

The College Board has already announced that if schools do not reopen in the fall, they will be offering a digital SAT. While prepping for a digital exam is of course different than prepping for a traditional one, the essence of the SAT would remain intact. The College Board would be undermining the validity of their own exam if they made substantial alterations to its content. No matter how the next SATs are delivered, then, we can adapt to the changes in format while relying on our proven core approach to preparing for test day.

What should students be doing now, if the next exam isn’t until August?
Given this extended timeline, any prep that you choose to do over the next couple of months should be more casual. Read for pleasure, and to grow and learn. Take a practice exam if it helps you feel in control, but don’t perseverate on drilling vocab or math problems, and don’t worry if you can’t remember the definition of “perseverate.” Prepare as much as feels right to you, in ways that feel healthy and productive. As we get closer to August, it will be more appropriate to roll up your sleeves and do some intensive prep work.

We can get through this together.
We are in perhaps the most challenging moment in modern history. It’s very strange not to know how long our lives will be upended like this. It might provide some comfort to remind ourselves, and each other, that we are all going through this together. I’m not suggesting that our challenges, stresses, and concerns are all the same, but rather that a paradox of social distancing, of being apart from each other, is that it is a collective sacrifice we are making for our common good. We are in this together, protecting not just ourselves but each other.

Most importantly, this will end. It may take some time, but human ingenuity will succeed, and we will find a vaccine. We will be able to gather, pray, hug, and celebrate together once again. When you come out of this on the other side, you will know that you survived the greatest human challenge in a lifetime. Indeed, you will have a very special gift: a new appreciation of all life’s little moments in a profound way that would not have been possible if it weren’t for this unexpected challenge. Until then, stay strong. You got this. We got this.