Still Holding Out for the SAT?

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The January 2016 SAT Is the Last Administration of the Exam in its Current Form

The changes coming to the SAT in March 2016 have left many high school juniors confused about their options and the best approach for tests and test prep. For months, we’ve urged the Class of 2017 to opt for the ACT next spring in order to avoid any uncertainties regarding implementation and scoring that come along with this major overhaul. While we still stand behind the advice for all juniors to prep for the ACT, we realize there are still some that can’t get past the urban myths that ‘some schools prefer SAT’ or ‘the SAT is more coachable than the ACT.’ So for those doubters – with one big caveat – there is still the option to take the SAT in its current format with just one more offering in January 2016.

Why not take the March SAT?

For our full reasoning as to why students should take the ACT rather than the new SAT in the spring, we can point you to our earlier pieces on the changes coming to the SAT and how it will impact students. But if you are bound and determined to be an SAT taker, then please at least consider these arguments for January SAT and NOT the March Revised SAT (hereafter referred to as rSAT):

SAT test prep materials are robust and proven, rSAT are not, yet.

Given the long-standing history of the SAT, there is a wealth of materials available for students to use as they prepare. Trends across the test administrations have been consistent, allowing the industry to develop the most accurate and proficient materials. Not only are materials for the current test established in content, they are voluminous in number. While many test-prep giants have started developing materials for the rSAT, they are based solely off of the four CollegeBoard released practice tests. Considering these practice tests were only released this past summer, materials for the rSAT will lack variation and, unlike current SAT materials, will not be based off actual retired tests. As the rSAT is administered next spring, tweaks will ultimately be made to the test and therefore the supporting materials will also change. The significant changes in formatting and content will render materials for the current SAT virtually useless in prep for the rSAT.

Don’t be lured by the essay going optional on the rSAT!

While the essay section on the redesigned SAT is optional, most colleges will still require students to take this portion of the exam. While optional, the essay on the rSAT will be far more complex both in content and length. Rather than providing a personal opinion on a given topic and supporting it with evidence, students are given a substantial passage to read and will be asked to analyze how the author built his or her argument. Therefore, students will need to understand the techniques authors use to write persuasively, for many, a more challenging task than providing one’s own opinion. The expectations are also higher, given that the section doubled in length to 50 minutes. For students whose strong suit isn’t writing, this could pose an additional challenge.

You will know where you stand with an SAT score at least 4 months earlier than rSAT!

One of the biggest criticisms that The College Board has faced since announcing the launch of the redesigned SAT in early 2014 is the company’s ability to handle changes of this proportion without major setbacks. They’ve already indicated that scores from the earliest test date in March will be held until after the May test, adding, in essence, a 2 month “time out” to a students test prep plans as they won’t have March scores in hand to help decide on possible retakes in May or even June, nor will they have scores that may help guide additional test prep. Further delays with scoring are anticipated, narrowing the window prior to the early action college deadline.

And add to that delay the concordance issue:

The CollegeBoard has also already stated that it will not release a concordance table comparing scores from SAT to rSAT until June, which means that students will not have an accurate picture of how their rSAT scores align with admissions standards until early summer, at best, assuming there are no additional delays. Students, especially those planning to apply early decision, should avoid this unnecessary stress in the application process.

But will schools prefer rSAT over SAT?

One of the biggest questions that remains, and not just for applicants and their families is whether colleges will accept and consider all three tests equally: current SAT, rSAT, and ACT.

Whereas many colleges, including highly selective schools such as Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and Stanford have explicitly stated that applicants may submit scores from any of the three tests, how they will evaluate scores is not as clear – even to admissions officers! (To date, only Virginia Tech has announced that they will only accept either the rSAT or ACT for students seeking enrollment in fall of 2017 and beyond.) With the uncertainty around all the changes and the timing and accuracy of the concordance, colleges are still determining how they will weigh scores from the rSAT and if they will superscore across both tests. At this point, some schools, including the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia, have confirmed that they will not superscore across tests, however most are still undecided.

So if you are stuck on SAT – Don’t wait! But here comes the caveat.

The regular registration deadline for the January 2016 SAT is December 28, 2015, with the late registration deadline on January 12, 2016. Students who want one last shot at the current SAT should register now to reserve their spot but – and here’s that caveat – you should register for this last sitting ONLY IF YOU ARE READY. We always advise our students to only sit for the SAT if they are truly prepared. Many colleges don’t follow score choice, so you may have to send all you’re test scores to certain schools you apply to. If you sit for an exam you’re not ready for and perform poorly, that will be reflected on your score report. There’s also maturity, content, and your test prep strategy to consider. Have you been preparing for the SAT? Do you know the content? Are you taking the test seriously? If not, you should sit this one out and prepare, instead, for the ACT.

While some uncertainty surrounding the rSAT remains, we bring together a team of counselors and tutors to ensure students are armed with the most up-to-date information and resources. Our tutors have close to 100 years of combined experience working with students to prep for the current SAT or ACT, and can guide students towards their goal scores.

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