The 1/24 SAT Retesting Dates and the College Board’s Anachronistic, Imperious Air

mjy 11-13-14Yesterday, the day after the 1/24/15 SATs were canceled for many New England students due to weather, the College Board announced its retesting dates and, in some cases, new test centers. It was issuing orders, not offering choices.

For many students in West Hartford and throughout the region, the new date is 2/7/15, exactly two weeks after the originally scheduled exam. That date may not mean much to anyone outside the college preparatory universe, but those of us in the trenches know that 2/7 is the pre-existing, regularly scheduled ACT date. Hmmmm.

If you’re one of the students who now holds a ticket for both an ACT and an SAT on February 7, despite your meticulous planning and your punctilious time management since the New Year, hopefully earlier, to prep for two big exams only two week apart, it appears the College Board is forcing you to make a choice.

Forcing is not too strong word, at least judging from the College Board’s official website proclamations. If the whole “SAT Test Center Closings” page appeared as a sample reading passage on one of its own SAT Critical Reading sections, I assure you the tone that best characterizes the passage as a whole would be Authoritarian. Okay, let’s grant the College Board has to inform a lot (and by that I mean millions) of people what to do, so its communications personnel need to be clear, even unequivocal. But the impersonal declarative and imperative sentences structures and the profusion of de-personalizing passive constructions are rhetorical devices used to obfuscate and imply that the College Board doesn’t make decisions, the universe does- But beneath the rhetoric, the College Board is imposing its will. It has made a unilateral decision and its decisions are final.

For most students, this is much ado about nothing because most students don’t take both a Jan SAT and a Feb ACT (editor’s note: at CPE we think you should :-)). For them. the two-week delay may pose an inconvenience, but, hey, it was an act of Nature. College entrance exams play an important role in a college bound students’ lives, so the days they actually sit for them can be reasonably assumed high priorities (i.e., cancel your other plans). But what happens if your family had been saving that date for months, planning some very meaningful weekend somewhere? Too bad. What if you were planning to be out of state, competing in athletics or performing with some kind of ensemble? Tough luck. What if you were planning to take the ACT that day? Not our problem.

This is precisely where you feel the power of the College Board, operating as if it were still the only game in town, even though the ACT overtook the SAT in 2012 in total tests sold. In keeping with its peremptory pronouncements, the page offers no human touch: there’s no Frequently Asked Questions section or link, no email support or even address, and no telephone number to call. Just read it and weep.

I’m not going to suggest that the College Board purposely chose 2/7 to conflict with the pre-existing ACT, even though that move can only steal back some market share. Perhaps it’s a decision driven by policy, logistics, and expedience. But you can’t tell me the decision makers at the College Board didn’t know February 7 is an ACT date. How about a little professional courtesy here? How about thinking about the impact of forcing kids to choose between two exams they had been counting on taking for weeks if not months? Aren’t these exams stressful enough? Personally, I think choosing a pre-existing ACT date shows bad form and is discourteous to many people.

So if you got snowed out yesterday and were already planning (and prepping J) for the 2/7 ACT, which one should you choose? At CPE, we recommend you take the one for which you feel better prepared. Or, even better, the one on which you scored higher on your latest practice tests. .If you’re not sure, then take the one you like better. J.



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