The Changing Landscape Of Test Prep And Its Impact On The SATⓇAnd APⓇ Exams

The Changing Landscape Of Test Prep and Its Impact On The SAT® and AP® Exams

Amidst the global pandemic and heightened pressures students face, the College BoardⓇ has enacted four major changes to Advanced Placement exams and the SAT: 

  • Taking the SAT is optional for many college and university applications
  • In-person testing availability is limited amongst school closures
  • SAT Subject Tests are no longer offered 
  • Students may opt to take the SAT and AP exams digitally

Optional Testing And Limited Testing Availability 

Some colleges and universities have made the SAT optional in their admissions process. This comes as a result of limited testing availability throughout the pandemic. Some colleges consider the exam to be optional. Other application requirements are flexible, meaning other exam scores can be sent in place of the SAT. This flexibility accommodates students who were able to take an exam, but not the SAT. You will find that some schools do not look at test scores at all. 

Should I take the SAT? 

When deciding whether or not to take the SAT, you need to consider whether any of the schools you are applying to require an SAT score or consider the exam to be optional. 

If the exam is optional and available to you, then taking the SATis the best way to submit the most competitive application possible. 

If none of the schools you are applying to even consider SAT scores, then you do not have to take the test; although, generally, supplying a good SAT score can only help a college or scholarship application.

When deciding to take the SAT, you need to research each school’s admissions requirements. Because the SAT may be considered “optional,” this research is a crucial part of your test prep. 

Should I take AP exams? 

Advanced Placement exam scores may not be “required” by colleges and universities but do provide these institutions an understanding of your high school academic course rigor. Taking AP exams displays a student’s specific skill in each of the academic areas tested. 

Colleges and universities will use test scores to determine a student’s readiness for college-level work. They may even grant college course credits for achieving certain AP Exam scores, saving the student money.

Deciding whether or not to take AP exams will play a large role in your test prep schedule. Be sure that you allow enough time to study, practice, and feel confident for each exam you register for. Prepare to spend additional time studying and practicing for each AP exam you plan to take. 

What do I do if the SAT or AP exams are not available at my school? 

In recent years, students have faced more obstacles than ever when it comes to the SAT  and Advanced Placement exams. The pandemic has postponed or canceled many test dates, and students are left wondering how these changes may impact their college admissions. 

If the SAT and AP exams are not available for in-person testing, you may consider digital testing. If neither option is available or if your exams have been canceled, you can find peace of mind in knowing that most colleges and universities have shifted their focus away from test scores and instead focus on the rest of your application to evaluate your academic strengths. 

No More SAT Subject TestsⓇ

SAT Subject Tests were used as a tool for students to show off their skills in a specific academic area. If you had planned to take an SAT Subject Test to make your college application more competitive, you should know that there are other opportunities to showcase your academic strengths. 

Why Cancel The Subject Tests? 

The College Board has stated, “We’re reducing demands on students. The expanded reach of AP and its widespread availability means the Subject Tests are no longer necessary for students to show what they know.”

SAT Subject tests have been removed by the College Board to alleviate the pressure students face. The good news is that this change will not diminish your ability to show your academic interests and specified strengths on a college application.

What Can I Do Instead? 

Instead of taking the SAT Subject tests, you can take Advanced Placement exams. There are 38 different Advanced Placement exams offered, while there were only 20 SAT Subject tests. 

You should know that you do not have to take an AP course to register for an AP exam. Anyone can register for an AP test. 

How Does This Change Impact My Test Prep For AP And SAT Exams?

If you are preparing for an AP exam, but have not taken an AP course, you are not alone! Preparing for AP exams will require diligent preparation, but you should know that there are plenty of online tools to take advantage of when shaping your expectations, practicing, and preparing for each test day.

This change will not significantly affect your test preparation for the SAT. In the past, students have faced challenges studying for the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP exams all at once. Without a third option, you can allocate more time to improving your SAT and AP scores. 

Digital AP And SAT Exams

Your test-taking strengths (or weaknesses) as well as the testing options provided by your school will shape your decision to take a paper exam or a digital exam. The newer option to take the exams digitally may impact your test prep for the SAT and AP exams, but digital exams will not require additional skills or additional knowledge. 

Difference Between Digital Exams And Paper Exams

Digital exams and paper exams assess the same skills and the same topics. You should know that you will prepare for the digital exams the same way that you will prepare for paper exams. Still, there are formatting differences to expect.

Are There Differences In Scoring And Reporting?

Digital exam scores are accepted by colleges and universities. They are reportable just like paper exam scores. 

Are Digital Exams Reliable And Secure? 

If you choose to take a digital form of an AP exam or the SAT, you will work in a secure browser that blocks students from using other websites, copying information, and using unapproved tools and applications. 

Here is a breakdown of how you can adjust your test preparation to the digital and paper testing options available to you. 

Preparing For Digital AP Exams And The Digital SAT 

Your testing location will allocate one testing device for each student registered for a digital exam. 

Digital AP exams mirror the format of paper exams. You can use the College Board’s AP Course Descriptions to dive into the topics and skills each AP exam evaluates. 

Preparation for digital SAT and AP exams will involve the same type of questions, problems, passages, graphs, and formats that paper SAT and AP exams require. 

If you are preparing for a digital SAT instead of a paper SAT, you should know online test prep is available and very applicable to your digital exams. You should also know that the College Board offers a Student Digital Test Preview that offers insight into what the official digital exam will look like. 

Taking practice exams online is a great way to prepare for digital exams. You can gain confidence working on a screen while honing your skills and practice diligent time management. 

As you prepare for digital AP exams and the digital SAT, remember that digital exams evaluate the same topics and skills paper exams evaluate, so a drastic change in your study plan is not necessary. 

What Kind Of Testing Format Is Right For You? 

You should know that there are benefits to either of the testing formats. For many students, paper testing is something they are experienced with, and if you have taken a standardized exam in the past, you will likely have a general understanding of how the paper test works. Still, there are some benefits to online testing that you may not know about. 

The first benefit is time efficiency. When taking online exams, some students realize that they can type faster than they can write. If you struggle with time management, especially with exams that include an essay, then testing digitally may significantly improve your time efficiency and score. 

Another benefit of digital testing is access to online tools. In the setting of a paper exam, students will bring their own calculators, pencils, and any other tools a specific exam requires. Digital tools make testing accessible and can feel more intuitive to students. 

On a digital AP exam, you will have access to an integrated clock, calculator, highlighter, answer eliminator, Zoom, and other tools depending on the exam you take. 

On the digital SAT, you will have access to a calculator, a highlighter, a line focus tool to guide you through reading, a mark for review tool, a digital notepad, a page to reference math formulas, a strikethrough tool to cross out answer choices, and a Zoom feature. 

All of these tools can be navigated on the testing browser.

As you encounter these changes in the SAT and Advanced Placement exams, remember that some of these changes can be used to your advantage. If you struggle to register for an exam (through the closures and limitations brought on by COVID-19), there are options available to you. If you had previously planned to take an SAT Subject test, consider if any AP exam suits your needs. 

FLEX College Prep offers test prep that is efficient and personalized. If you are looking to improve your scores, gain experience with the topics and skills tested, and learn effective test-taking strategies, then consider FLEX’s test prep for the SAT and all AP exams.