Change. It’s exciting for some, stressful for others. The SAT changed in 2005 because of the criticisms from the University of California system. With more students taking the ACT than the SAT, it prompted College Board to make changes.
We are entering a unique time in college admissions with the massive changes in standardized testing. While the PSAT and SAT have the most visible changes, the ACT is making subtle changes as well. Regardless of which test you prefer or decide to take, here are some new standardized test-prep strategies for juniors and seniors.
Since the new SAT will be first offered in March 2016 and scores released in May, this may cause some confusion among upperclassmen who are not sure which SAT they should take in 2016.
Seniors who have yet to take the SAT should take it in November or December 2015 and retake it in January 2016 (if necessary).
Juniors taking the new PSAT in October 2015 should register for the new SAT in March 2016. You will be taking the new PSAT to prepare for the new SAT. Juniors taking the January 2016 SAT will be tested on the current SAT format.
Many test prep tutors and some college admissions professionals are recommending that juniors focus on the ACT during the spring. Let the states and school districts that require their juniors to take the new SAT serve as the test market. And since the new SAT is going to look remarkably similar to the current ACT, don’t stress over which one to take. They recommend that juniors who want to take the new SAT take it in October 2016. This will give College Board time to work out the initial testing bugs.
Dave Berry of College Confidential recently interviewed Mark Greenstein of Ivy Bound Test Prep. Mark advocates taking the current SAT: “There is a STARK difference between studying for the current SAT and waiting for the redesigned SAT. Though it’s getting late, there are four reasons why almost every junior is better off with the current SAT.
When is it ever a good time to take a 3-hour test?
But wait, there’s more!
The SAT Essay is an optional 50 minute section and an additional $9.50. Should students take it? I recommend that students take the essay section if the college requires the ACT with writing. It won’t hurt to take it just in case you apply to a college that requires the essay.
In August 2015, Janet Lorin shared about the division among the Ivy League schools about requiring the SAT Essay. Those in favor: Yale, Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth. Those opposed: Brown, Columbia, Cornell and UPenn. As of today, most colleges will not require the essay. “Of almost 300 schools responding to [a Kaplan Test Prep poll], more than two-thirds said they will neither require nor recommend students submit the essay.”
So when will juniors have time to take the SAT Subject Tests or AP tests since those are scheduled for May and June? David recommends “tutor now for the November, December and (if need be), January SAT. Take Subject Tests in January (if open), May, and June. Take APs in May.”
Bottom line: testing will always be situational and student specific. So talk through your options with an advisor or counselor. Juniors need to decide TODAY which tests they need to take: ACT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and/or AP tests. Then make a plan to practice, get tutoring, and schedule their tests. This means students need to review the colleges on their Working List of Colleges to determine what tests they require.
Don’t forget, if students bomb their standardized tests, there are hundreds of test-optional colleges that might be a good fit.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.