For decades, setting aside a Saturday to take the SAT college entrance exam has been an expectation for high school students who plan to pursue a college education after graduation. For most students, it is a stressful process that takes up half a day and many times occurs in unfamiliar surroundings, adding to the angst to produce a strong score.
That all changed for Carrollton High School students last year when the school added the SAT School Day option. More than 100 seniors took the SAT during school last fall and just this week, the second cohort of test takers completed the exam.
Carrollton High Assistant Principal Susan Gordy said she is convinced the school-day administration contributed to the Class of 2020’s high performance on the SAT and the increased participation rate, exceeding state and national averages in both.
The class posted a composite score of 1053, 23 points higher than the national average of 1030 and 10 points higher than the state’s 1043. Despite the coronavirus pandemic that halted SAT testing last spring, the school increased its participation rate by four points to 71 percent, exceeding the state average of 64 percent and well above the national percentage of test takers.
“The school-day test gave students the opportunity to take the SAT in familiar surroundings with their peers at a time they would normally be at school anyway,” said Gordy. “It took off the stress of planning for a Saturday, arranging transportation, and addressing possible conflicts with weekend extracurricular commitments.”
Since SAT School Day is a relatively new option for students, school participation is low, although growing in popularity as more are starting to see its benefits. The College Board, the nonprofit that administers the SAT, reports that 3,000-plus districts and 9,000 schools now participate in SAT School Day.
Carrollton High School seniors Natalie Davis and Matthew Harvey are two students who took the test Wednesday. As expected of teenagers, weekend time is precious to them and the school-day administration supports this priority.
“The school-day SAT is extra convenient because of its mid-week timing in comparison to a typical Saturday SAT test,” said Natalie. “The Friday night before a normal SAT might consist of a football game or hanging out with friends, causing me to get less sleep and feeling less prepared for my test. However, waking up on test day is no different than waking up for a normal school day.”
Matthew also noted the value it offers in reducing anxiety.
“The school-day SAT made me feel more at home and relaxed,” he said. “It was conducted in a familiar environment and coincided with my normal weekday schedule. And it was nice to not have to go on a Saturday.”
Gordy said the same strict protocols used in Saturday testing are applied to the school-day setting, including the length of the exam. The fall administration is reserved for seniors while the spring testing period is primarily for juniors. Last spring, the junior class did not have this option because the testing date fell after schools closed because of the pandemic.
The pandemic also exacerbated the trend of colleges and universities opting not to require the SAT for admission, said Gordy, but she also noted there could be a silver lining for students.
“We’ve always encouraged students to take the SAT even if they aren’t sure they want to go to college,” she said. “This way, they would have the test score in case they did. But now, since more and more colleges aren’t requiring it, I advise students to still take the SAT because it will help them stand out from other college applicants – especially if their scores are high. For others whose scores turn out not to be exceptional, they can choose not to report them.”