Among the many uncertainties created by the coronavirus pandemic is the question of what to do about the standardized tests for college application many high school juniors take this time of year. While many states have waived their own required testing requirements, parents and students have been left in limbo with regard to what will be necessary for college admissions this cycle.
The College Board, the company that administers the SAT, had to cancel and issue refunds to many of its exam-takers on its March 14th test date and has entirely cancelled its second round of testing on May 2nd. Similarly, ACT, Inc. which (obviously) owns the ACT is rescheduling its April 4th test for June 13th.
Colleges have long had a love-hate relationship with standardized testing, and while they have often flirted with making the tests optional, large universities like the UC system in California have few alternative options to help winnow their enormous applicant pools.
But there is a standardized test that is ready and willing to fill the need of stranded high schoolers: the Classic Learning Test. A start-up testing company that has offered its classical curriculum-based exam as an alternative to the SAT and ACT for more than four years, it has a different vision than its competitors. “We are a group of techies who love the Great Books,” says Jeremy Tate, the company’s co-founder.
Instead of the boring technical passages found in most standardized reading sections – one California exam recently included a vacuum cleaner manual – the CLT tries to challenge its test takers with the best the Western canon has to offer, from Aristotle to Mozart. Its return-to-the-classics approach is one that’s increasingly popular with American parents and students, particularly after complaints that Common Core standards were stripping great literature from state classrooms. Another bonus: the test takes half the time of the SAT, and students get their results back in a few days, not months later.
Ahead of the game in online administration, the CLT has “solved the riddle of safe and secure remote proctoring.” And in the time of coronavirus, the little testing company that could may become an alternative many families turn to in their bid to both adhere to the social distancing required for public health and keep their juniors on track to be prepared for college applications.
Thus far, the CLT has served mostly classical curriculum liberal arts schools like St. John’s College and Hillsdale College, as well as many of the explicitly Christian-affiliated universities all over the country, about 170 colleges so far.
But Tate said that in these unusual circumstances, demand for the test has spiked: “Registrations and website traffic have more than doubled since [the] SAT/ACT cancelled their spring tests last week.” And it’s possible that colleges looking at limited options for narrowing their applicant pools to a manageable and reviewable size will be willing to branch out and consider this innovative new test, the CLT.