By now, many people are aware that the SAT is changing. Starting next March 2016, the redesigned SAT will replace the current SAT for many students in the class of 2017 and beyond. It will return to its roots of having two main sections: Math and Verbal, each scored on a 200-800 point scale with the total scoring range between 400-1600. The essay will be optional and it will be scored separately from the two main sections, similar to the way the ACT essay is scored. The new SAT will also have another scoring difference from its current version: There will no longer be a penalty for wrong answers, and there will only be 4 possible answer choices instead of the 5 there are now.
There are several other similarities between the new SAT and the ACT. The SAT will have science questions, although there won’t be a separate Science section; instead the science questions will be spread throughout the Math and Verbal sections of the new SAT. There will also be social studies questions throughout the test, including a Reading passage from a U.S. “founding document.” The ACT has also always had Trigonometry questions in the Math Section, and the new SAT will have them now as well.
So, if students from the Class of 2017 are preparing for these standardized tests early in their junior year, which test should they take? First of all, we at Sandweiss Test Prep recommend that students take a diagnostic test for the current SAT and the ACT. We will compare the two sets of scores, and if the SAT is the “better” test, we’ll recommend that the student take the SAT once in the fall and again in the winter, with the goal of completing the SAT prior to March of 2016. If the ACT is the better test, we’ll still recommend that juniors take the test for the first time as early in the school year as possible, given each student’s after school activities and other time constraints. For either test, making sure there is adequate time for any necessary preparation is essential for score improvement.
Finally, we generally recommend against taking the new SAT on the first three or so test dates. This is to insure that there are adequate practice tests available, as well as other practice material. Also, the questions on the new test have not necessarily been proven to be a reliable indicator of college preparedness as they are generally designed to be. Instead, students taking the new SAT in the first three test dates will sort of be the guinea pigs of the College Board’s test designers. Since the new PSAT will be in the new, redesigned format, students will get a chance to sample the new SAT. If they absolutely need to wait, and must take the SAT or ACT in the Spring of their Junior year, we can use that new PSAT from the fall to compare with the ACT.