What do the new changes mean for you?
With a slew of new changes hitting the SAT next spring, high school students across the country have been trying to decipher what these changes mean for them. So let’s break it down.
These changes are going to have the most impact on current freshman and sophomores. Current juniors will have completed all of their testing by this upcoming December. Freshman and sophomores will have the option of taking either the current SAT, the ACT, or the new SAT. While sometimes too many options can be overwhelming, this is actually a really great opportunity for students to find the test that best suits their style and capabilities. The best way to get a sense of that is to do diagnostic tests for each exam. These are readily available in prep books, online, and on Brightstorm.
What is the best strategy for you?
After doing diagnostics, you want to get a sense of which test felt the most comfortable and which one garnered the highest baseline score. Accordingly, you want to look at the testing schedule and plan out your prep schedule, when you will take your first exam, and what will be your backup option. If you decide that you will be taking the current SAT, there will only be four more options during the next academic year: October, November, December, and January. Ideally students should plan to take the test as early in the Fall as possible so as to have ample time to retake it if needed. More importantly, students can do their prep over the summer and take the test while they are still in the zone. After January, the current SAT will be unavailable. At that point, students will only have the option of the new SAT or the ACT.
The ACT has proven to be a great alternative to the SAT. In recent years, it has actually become a more popular exam. Students appreciate that it is a slightly shorter exam, but more importantly that it feels less tricky. Just because some students have found greater success with this test does not mean that it is the better exam for all students. Before jumping on the ACT bandwagon, make sure you are comfortable with the test. This test can be taken multiple times throughout the year.
For those that want to try the new SAT, it will be available March 2016. Students should only wait for this test if they are positive that the current SAT does not suit them. Remember that you cannot go back to the current SAT after January 2016. The new exam is not a slightly modified version of the current test; it is a brand new exam. The scores from the first exam will also likely not be available until May or June; typically scores are available in less than three weeks. This can make strategizing tricky for soon to be seniors that are trying to finalize testing and their college lists.
How do you prepare for the exams?
This is really a personal choice. Many students like classes because they offer structure and students have a particular timeline to follow. Others prefer one-on-one tutoring because their time is limited and they can focus on the areas where they are the weakest. Some want to study on their own because they are self-disciplined and will make the time to prepare diligently. Whichever way you choose, it is important that you plan ahead. Many students are able to effectively study and master the strategies after just a few weeks, but then need to continue practicing these strategies until test day.
How will colleges view the different exams?
Standardized testing is meant to give admissions officers a way to compare students across many different factors including schools and opportunities. A new exam always throws a wrench in this type of comparison as they try to understand how the new exam will be a predictor for success. Students in the Class of 2017 and 2018 (those most affected by the exam changes) will get the most leniency. Admissions officers will accept all three exams and use the highest reported score for admissions purposes.
Remember that testing is simply one piece of the admissions process. Once you have chosen the test you will take, move on to the many other things that high school and life have to offer. Life and you are much more than a test score.