I have panic attacks before taking in-person tests, and I know I’m not alone in saying college students would benefit greatly from exams being virtual, even as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Jan. 25, the College Board announced that the SAT will be fully virtual starting in 2024, as 80 percent of students who responded to a November 2021 survey said they found it to be less stressful and educators reported having a positive experience, according to its website.
Once they’ve moved online, students will take the SAT in a proctored setting, like a testing center, USA Today reported. However, there are many online proctoring sites, like ProctorU and Honorlock, that are capable of preventing cheating while allowing students to test from home.
The SAT is not the only standardized test that has been moved online; the LSAT, MCAT and GMAT are all fully virtual standardized tests.
With the SAT and other major standardized exams becoming fully virtual, college students should have the option to access all their exams online from home, because of advantages like convenience and consistency. Students should have the option of being in-person if they would rather be inside a classroom.
The ability to take exams remotely is essential in cases when students cannot come in person, like when a student is ill or experiencing personal family matters.
Online testing allows for students to control their environment, said Lori Bailey, the assistant dean of Digital Transformation and Innovation.
“Because they can be very high stakes exams, they can control the environment in which they take the exam a little bit more,” Bailey said. “If you find [the] ticking of a clock in an exam room annoying or distracting, you could be in a quiet space.”
Unfortunately, not all students may have a comfortable place to take their exams as some struggle with weak Wi-Fi.
“Suddenly your Wi-Fi drops, and you don’t know if you’re losing time on the exam, you don’t know if it’ll remember what you did,” Bailey said. “You’re just sort of in this high anxiety moment of ‘What am I going to do?’ and ‘Who do I contact?’”
Sixty-eight percent of students said they are able to access their course content but their internet access can be slow or unreliable, according to a May 2021 report by the Institute for Higher Education Policy.
If a student is taking an online exam and runs into this issue, professors are flexible, Bailey said.
While the ability to take an exam online is essential for those with extenuating circumstances, it’s important to have the option of coming in-person as well in case a student’s computer crashes or loses Wi-Fi.
For example, flexibility could include giving students extended due dates if they’re struggling with their internet or allowing them to come to Temple’s Main Campus to use a computer.
While feeling anxious before tests is normal for college students, extreme feelings of anxiety and stress can give students physical and emotional symptoms that affect their test performance. Approximately 20 to 45 percent of college students suffer from test anxiety, according to a November 2020 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Online exams provide convenience because students are able to take tests at home, and immunocompromised students don’t have to worry about risking exposure to illnesses like COVID-19, said Nikhil Stride, a senior journalism major.
“You don’t have to go through all the barriers of getting ready, worrying about traffic, like all of those things,” Stride said.
When students are facing personal matters, it is essential that they are able to test in an area that is convenient for them, without forcing them to come to the classroom.
While test anxiety can be caused by poor test history, other students, like Hanna Lee, experience anxiety from taking tests with others in the room.
With prior exams, much of Lee’s anxiety came from seeing peers jump to sections ahead of her during exams, she said.
“When I was taking the SAT, for example, I remember being super overwhelmed when I saw people jumping over to different sections, and I was still stuck on the same page for a few minutes,” said Lee, a sophomore political science major.
Students must have the option to take all exams online because of the benefits that online test-taking provides and to take tests in-person if they choose. Allowing students to have these two options will ensure students can reach their full potential and receive scores that accurately reflect the work they put in.