What's new in standardized testing: a conversation with Bright Horizons College Coach

Megan Stubbendeck, CEO of ArborBridge, recently joined Elizabeth Heaton of Bright Horizons College Coach for a segment of "Getting In: A College Coach Conversation.” Beth and Megan discussed the new digital SAT and how the role of standardized testing is (and isn't) changing in admissions, now that more schools are going test-optional.

Watch Beth and Megan's full conversation below, or read on for a sample of their discussion.

Part 1:


Part 2:

BETH HEATON Tell me about tests, are they back to normal?

MEGAN STUBBENDECK Things have been changing quite a lot, and one of the big stories was test optional, but another big one was the disruptions caused by the pandemic. There were periods when the SAT and ACT were just outright canceled. APs went online. IBs were canceled. The tests would come back, and then seats would get pulled. And students were having a hard time finding an opportunity to take the tests. But really, now we are back to a state of pretty-much normal when it comes to all of these tests. So SAT and ACT are back to sort-of normal seat availability. Cancellations are back to the normal spread, where generally the only time we see cancellations is because of weather or other things that have always happened in the history of this kind of testing. But we’re not seeing those large-scale cancellations or site cancellations that we have in the past. The other thing that we’re seeing is that the tests have gone back to the old paper and pencil, and the AP is a good example of this. APs had to go online and scramble in the lockdown period, but now we are back to kids taking them at school.

One change I have seen is a drop in the number of people taking the SAT and ACT in particular. I think that goes along with test-optional—and I’m sure you’ve seen this too with your students—but there are a number of students who have decided that taking these tests is “not the path for me” because they now have that ability to choose. If we look at the numbers, SAT and ACT are probably down in terms of test takers by about 20% each. So it’s not massive, but it’s definitely a substantial number.

BETH Yeah. What I’m seeing is that I have a group of students who are saying, “I know this is going to be a positive for me. I’m pursuing taking the tests.” And they’re taking them, and they’re right: tests are positive for them. I’ve got another group of students who are saying, “I’m going to try. I think that my academic and extracurricular profiles make me competitive for some of these schools, and I’m going to try to get my test scores where I think they’ll be positive in my application.” And then if the scores don’t get there, then they’re just opting not to send them. Then I’ve got a third group of students who are saying, just like what you said, “It’s not for me,” for whatever reason. And you know, I’ve had students who in the past, when they’ve taken standardized tests, it hasn’t been an accurate reflection of their capabilities, or it really places undue stress on them, so they just freeze up in a way that they don’t in other testing situations. So they’re opting to just say, “Nope, I’m not going to take tests at all.” I think, for me, the big message I want to impart is that, in your applications, you have to be thoughtful about where you’re applying to. If you’re going to be test optional, there are schools where the tests actually aren’t optional.

Watch part 1 and part 2 of Megan and Beth’s full conversation to learn more about 

  • how test-optional policies and COVID learning loss have affected test prep
  • how to start prepping for the verbal and math sections of the ACT and SAT
  • what is and isn't changing as the SAT moves from paper to digital


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About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

Jordan Browne

About Jordan Browne

In addition to graduating summa cum laude from Emerson College and holding an M.F.A. from Columbia University, Jordan was a Fulbright scholar to Montenegro, where he taught seven courses for the University of Montenegro. Along with teaching writing, rhetoric, and literature at the college level, Jordan has taught test prep for several years in New York public schools and across three continents. Ever since he was young, he’s been the weird one who actually enjoys standardized tests, and, for several years now, he’s taught students of every skill level and background how to like them too—or, at least, how to get the scores they need.

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