The need to shift our way of life due to COVID-19 has indeed been challenging, but it has also fueled creativity and ingenuity, resulting in new, and sometimes even better, ways of doing things. One such thing is online testing. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more tests were moving to a computerized format, and now, at-home testing has become a feasible alternative. Some tests, such as the ISEE and SSAT, are available at home, but what is the alternative for the benchmark mock testing that is commonly administered in-person at schools? Online mock tests, of course.
Oliver Scholars and Mock Testing
Oliver Scholars is an educational access organization that prepares and supports Black and Latino students as they enter independent secondary schools, and more than that, students in the Oliver Scholars program receive continued, holistic support through college. Hundreds of New York City public school students who demonstrate a strong inclination toward leadership, scholarship, and service are nominated for the program each year. After receiving a nomination, students are invited to complete a rigorous application process, which is designed to mimic the independent school application process.
One part of the application is taking an SSAT benchmark mock test, which provides Oliver Scholars with more information about students’ strengths and weaknesses. Historically, the mock test has been administered in-person to about 200 applicants. This year, the in-person mock test was scheduled for March 14, 2020, just three days before the New York City shelter-in-place order. Oliver Scholars, unable to host the in-person test, was, at the last minute, in need of a new plan.
Oliver Scholars is one of Test Innovators’ long-standing partners. When Oliver Scholars reached out to us in hopes of a solution, we had just the thing they were looking for. As an online education company, we are well-equipped to successfully manage online learning, including test administration.
Before the test, Oliver Scholar students were emailed instructions on how to access the test session on Zoom and the mock test itself on the Test Innovators platform. On the day of the test, students hopped onto the Zoom video call, where they were greeted by the proctor who helped them log in to their Test Innovators accounts and get ready for the test. The proctor provided the rules and instructions for the test, kept time of sections and breaks, and was available to answer any questions during the test. The Test Innovators support team also helped get students started and monitored students during the test.
Feedback from Oliver Scholars
After the mock test, we spoke with Mark Hall, the Vice President of Admissions & Placement at Oliver Scholars, to get his feedback on the mock test experience. Mark said, “We are thrilled with the results of the virtual test that our applicants took as our entrance exam.” He went on to explain that because they received the test scores so quickly, the minor delay in testing did not have a significant impact on the admissions process. “The admission team was thrilled that we only had to delay the test by one week.”
Additionally, Mark recognized one of the many benefits of doing the mock test online. “Given the probability that students will have to test remotely for the foreseeable future, the experience that students gained through our entrance exam will benefit them when they take the SSAT at the end of the summer and in December.”
In addition to the successful mock test experience, Mark expressed his appreciation for the detailed analytics and diagnostics Test Innovators provides about student performance. The specificity of the data helps identify students’ exposure to different topics. As an example, a low score on the math section might be a result of a lack of experience with a particular subtype, rather than a lack of math knowledge and skills.
Mark went on to explain that although this was the first year that Oliver Scholars collaborated with Test Innovators for the mock test, Oliver Scholars has been using Test Innovators test preparation for several years, which has contributed to great improvements for their students. “We were ecstatic that the percentage increase in our students' test scores doubled last summer, and we believe TI [Test Innovators] was an essential part of that growth.”
Change Doesn’t Have to Entail Sacrifice
Oliver Scholars is adapting and responding to the new changes we face, and they’re certainly not letting surmountable obstacles get in the way of their mission to support students in realizing their full potential. “[Oliver Scholars] will engage students in remote classes this summer, and we feel very confident in our Test Prep curriculum because we have been refining our use of TI [Test Innovators] for the last two years.” Mark recognized the importance of collaboration, especially during times of great change, “The team truly appreciates [Test Innovators’] responsiveness and willingness to help us solve problems and explore new ideas.”
When our whole world seems to be turned upside down, we need to support one another, find new ways of doing things, and embrace the things we can’t change. We are here to support you and your students as you navigate online learning. The shift to online learning doesn’t have to entail compromise, but it does require new ways of doing things. And sometimes, the new way of doing things is in fact better.
If you’re in need of mock testing or preparation materials and tools for your program, we’ve got you covered. Contact our team to learn how we can help you.