a year ago
Admissions Advice

Taking tests with a mask?

To those of you taken the act recently (or any other standardized test) and had to weak a mask, how was it? Was the mask distracting and do you think you could have performed better without it? Any suggestions to prevent wearing a mask from being distracting?

@arielUC25a year ago

I unfortunately cannot answer this questiona as my August date for the SAT Subject test was postponed due to my county being on the California county watchlist.

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2 answers

a year ago[edited]

I took the July 19th ACT with a mask and it was stressful for a number of reasons. 1.) As someone who spends most of the day at home without a mask, I found it constraining to keep it on for the full 4 hours without breaks. 2.) Many people at the high school testing center not involved distracted me before and after the test and during breaks. They were passing out yearbooks or socializing in common areas without masks nor social distancing. That made me more stressed to keep mine on all the time. I'm certain I would have performed better without a mask in a test center that I was familiar with that had no other activities going on. Or a test center that had better COVID-19 safety protocols in place which would disallow other students, admin floating around at the same time oblivious to the test takers. It didn't help that I had to drive 1 hour away from my zip code to an unfamiliar place to take the test. In hindsight, I think what would have prepared me better was if I had taken 3-5 practice tests with a mask on at home so simulate what I feel like to have your nose and mouth covered for 4 hours. Although you can breathe, it's just another uncomfortable distraction you don't need to focus on when you are trying to take a test. As a result, my composite score went down 1 point and I have to take the Sept ACT now to try to get it up 1 point. I have to drive 5 hours away to take the next test which is kind of nuts because there is no way I'm getting up at 2 AM to get there before the 8 AM start. My dad will have to go with me this time and we have to stay in a hotel room and spend a lot of unnecessary funds because both ACT.org and CollegeBoard failed all the students and parents with their inability to manage their products and services. ((My SAT 2 subject tests were canceled for 8.29 and the closest test center is Sioux City which is 1627 miles from my house. There is no mask requirement in South Dakota and that's where 250,000 bikers are having the Sturgis Rally. I'm not doing that plus it's cost-prohibitive.))

a year ago

I took the July 17th ACT Test date (internationally), and I thought it was fine. I was lucky that my test centre had pretty good air conditioning, so I didn't feel like I was suffocating at all. I really think that the test centre conditions plays a huge part in whether the COVID-19 protocol is uncomfortable or not. If I'm completely honest, when you're completely focused on a three hour-ish test, you kind of forget the mask is there at all.

My advice would be to get a mask that isn't too thick so that it makes it difficult for you to breath, most masks are okay IMO. During the test itself, just focus on answering the questions (as we all know, standardised tests are time pressured, so this shouldn't be a problem), and the mask doesn't really get in your way.

Definitely try doing timed practice tests with a mask on to get used to the feeling.

Personally, I think that the conditions of your test centre is a more significant factor than whether you have a mask on or not. Try doing your test at a test centre that you either know, or can contact/research about beforehand. I was lucky that my test centre wasn't that bad even though I had never been there before and had to wake up at 5AM (and we were doing the test online and the internet was rly sketchy). The mask I don't think makes any significant difference in your test scores, unless you have respiratory issues or otherwise etc.etc. Far more important is how much sleep you get the night before the exam (don't sleep three hours like me), what you eat before the exam, the test centre conditions, etc.

This comes from someone who scored a 34 in the ACT with a mask on, so hopefully I'm somewhat qualified!


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