SAT Test Day proves a big hit among juniors

The Scholastic Aptitude Test was held for Palo Alto High School juniors on for free April 13, one of the largest gatherings on campus since the COVID-19 lockdown. Paly administrators decided in December to replace the Preliminary SAT test with an opportunity for all Paly juniors to take the full test for free. Students like junior Matthew Cao have taken Paly's SAT and are satisfied with their performance. “If I were to take another SAT, it would definitely be after I've received the score for this one,” Cao said.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test was held for Palo Alto High School juniors on for free April 13, one of the largest gatherings on campus since the COVID-19 lockdown. Paly administrators decided in December to replace the Preliminary SAT test with an opportunity for all Paly juniors to take the full test for free. Students like junior Matthew Cao have taken Paly’s SAT and are satisfied with their performance. “If I were to take another SAT, it would definitely be after I’ve received the score for this one,” Cao said. “I feel like I’ve done well enough, where I don’t need to immediately take another SAT and cancel my current score.” Photo: Arohi Bhattacharya

Jeffrey Tu, Managing Editor

Juniors gathered on the Palo Alto High School campus to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test at no charge on April 13. Paly administrators decided in December to replace the Preliminary SAT test with an opportunity for all Paly juniors to take the full test for free. Students like junior Matthew Cao have found Paly’s SAT to be a critical option for students in a time when testing availability is hard to come by. “I think this opportunity is really important, especially for students who don’t have the liberty to fly out of state or drive hours to a nearby testing station,” Cao said. Graphic: Kabir Advani

The Scholastic Aptitude Test Day, held April 13, marked the first large on-campus gathering hosted at Palo Alto High School since the large-scale shut down of PAUSD schools in early 2020.

According to assistant principal Margaret Reynolds, who helped organize the SAT day, 286 Paly juniors attended Paly’s SAT day. Reynolds said that the school administration took a forward step in organizing the testing operation.

“What is unique about the SAT School Day is that it is entirely run by the school, so all registration and preparation was done here [Paly] versus through College Board,” Reynolds said.

Junior Colleen Wang said that the SAT testing opportunity gave her reassurance that she could access standardized testing amid the pandemic, which caused many testing centers to close and postpone tests. She said she was looking to take the test even after she took it once in sophomore year and that both the ACT and SAT tests she signed up for continued to get canceled.

“With Paly providing the SAT, I could finally have a specific date when I knew I was going to be able to take it,” Wang said. “When I registered elsewhere online for the SAT, it would get canceled or moved and I had no idea if or when that would happen.”

Wang said that worries of the virus also prevented Wang from accessing tests in the early months of the pandemic.

“Me and my parents’ worries decreased the longer quarantine continued, and both my parents got their first vaccines, so there’s less of a worry,” Wang said.

Last year, 72% of colleges decided to make standardized tests optional, easing pressure on high schoolers to submit test scores. Although many colleges have similarly taken a test-optional approach for the Class of 2022, some students are still looking to take standardized tests because of the advantage it gives to students who are able to submit test scores to top-tier schools.

“They [colleges] still weigh standardized tests heavily for those who have taken it and is a great boost for those who have,” junior Tyler Wang said. “So I think that they [tests] still are pretty necessary.”

Many students said they found Paly’s COVID-19 guidelines effective on SAT day. According to junior Matthew Cao, testing stations within classrooms were evenly spaced out and separated with plexiglass shields to keep students safe throughout the test. Administrators tried to keep students socially distanced while they were waiting in line to receive a pass to enter classrooms and also had them enter classrooms one by one.

Cao said however, that students did not always follow with safety regulations before the test began.

“In the morning, we had to line up in order to get our pass to enter the classrooms,” Cao said. “But obviously, the line was as spaced out as if there was no COVID.”

Having finished the SAT, Cao feels satisfied with his performance.

“If I were to take another SAT, it would definitely be after I’ve received the score for this one,” Cao said. “I feel like I’ve done well enough, where I don’t need to immediately take another SAT and cancel my current score.”

Staff members like Reynolds were pleased with the outcome of the event.

“Seeing the comfort and satisfaction in them [students] as they left campus made all of the stress and hard work worth it,” Reynolds said.