Covid-19: Cancellation of university entrance exams affecting international admissions |

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It hasn’t been a good time to be a student. First, those graduating from polytechnics and ITEs have had their graduation ceremonies – held in May – cancelled this year.

Now, students planning to study abroad in countries like the UK, US, and Australia may have to tweak their plans. This is because the major entrance exams – IB, SAT, ACT, and some A-Levels subjects – are cancelled or altered in light of the coronavirus situation. And universities abroad are all scrambling to adjust their admissions protocols.

Cancellation of major entrance exams

Covid-19 has shut down schools worldwide, and it was only a matter of time until major university entrance exams were cancelled.

International Baccalaureate (IB): All IB exams scheduled between April 30 and May 22 will be cancelled. Depending on what they registered for, students will be awarded a Diploma or a Course Certificate which reflects their standard of work based on the students’ coursework.

A-Levels: All A-Level exams have been cancelled in the UK. Because A-Levels in Singapore is jointly conducted by MOE, Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) and Cambridge Assessment — the examining authority located in Britain — the subjects that are marked by Cambridge Assessment are cancelled. In compliance with the latest circuit breaker measures, MOE has stated that A-Level exams in Singapore for mother tongue language subjects will be postponed from June to July 27. Check MOE’s updates on Covid-19 here.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT) entrance exams for US-based colleges and universities have also been affected.

SAT: The College Board has cancelled the SAT tests on May 2 and June 6 worldwide. They have announced that they would develop digital versions in the fall if social distancing is still required, and are planning to offer SAT exams every month through the end of the year, beginning in August, if in-person gathering restrictions have been lifted.

ACT: The ACT exam has rescheduled its early April international test dates to 12 & 13 June, and 17 & 18 July.

Advanced Placement Program (AP) exams: For 2020 only, paper-and-pencil AP exams globally will not be administered. Students worldwide now have the opportunity to sit for online, at-home AP exams. See here for details from the College Board. AP exams are for students looking for undergraduate degree credit, advanced placement, or both while still in high school.

Cancellation of language aptitude tests

Language aptitude tests are also being cancelled and/or postponed.

IELTS: The testing of IELTS in Singapore has been cancelled until 1 June 2020 – although this largely depends on the circuit breaker situation. An option is the IELTS Indicator (from 22 April), an online test that can be taken from home. Available for a limited time while IELTS testing is currently suspended, it’s not accepted by all organisations as it only provides an indicative score.

TOEFL: The TOEFL iBT® testing has been suspended worldwide, which will be replaced by the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition which students can take at home, monitored by a human proctor online. According to ETS, the Special Home Edition is available as of 2 April.

What will happen to university applications?

Exam cancellations are just part of the problem when it comes to applying to universities. While the full extent of the Covid-19 pandemic remains uncertain, many leading universities have reassured students that they are continuing to accept applications for degree programmes starting later this year. Experts say institutions should allow students to delay start dates and relax entry requirements.

Across the US, many admissions offices are closed – some indefinitely. In the wake of the pandemic, more colleges in the US have temporarily made ACT and SAT results optional for 2021 applicants, including the vast University of California system and highly selective liberal arts colleges like Williams and Amherst.

Many US universities are also willing to work one-on-one with international applicants and are exercising flexibility with application deadlines, required application materials, English proficiency testing, and enrollment deadlines. Some universities are deferring undergraduate summer applications to fall.

For students who have already been admitted for fall semester, many schools – like MIT, Georgetown, Princeton, and Harvard – are cancelling admitted students weekends. In addition, a number of universities are beginning to consider the possibility that in-person classes may not resume until 2021.

Meanwhile in the UK, some universities are still processing international student applications; the UK government, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), and universities have announced their intention of keeping to the current year’s admission schedule.

Students unable to take the May/June A-Levels will need their schools to collaborate with UCAS to make evidence-based decisions about grades for each candidate in each subject they have entered for.

In Australia, many Singaporean applicants have already gotten their unconditional offers for the popular mid-year intake in semester 2 (July/August); in light of Covid-19, most Australian universities have delayed semester 2 classes by one week, so it now starts in August. For students applying for the regular intake in February/March, applications will open in August.

Visa applications affected

With the quick spread of Covid-19, it’s reasonable to expect an increasing number of visa appointment cancellations and embassy closures globally. This would definitely affect students who have been accepted into universities that are ready to conduct in-person classes – some universities may well be welcoming new students with online-based classes.

Because of all this uncertainty, many prospective students have already started to delay or cancel their overseas education – and this has affected universities across the globe who are scrambling to fill spaces and retain staff.

While the coronavirus is throwing all future plans into chaos, all prospective international students should keep up to date with their chosen universities/colleges and guidance counsellors for the latest news.