Are You Prepared For The New “Redesigned” SAT’s?

If you’re in 10th grade, you’re probably aware that your class is the first one scheduled to take the new “Redesigned” SAT. Unfortunately, there’s not much information available yet but we do know that there will be significant differences, both in structure and content. Details will continue to trickle out between now and the introduction of the new test in March of 2016, but students and their parents are wondering now how the changes affect them, and what (if anything) they should be doing.
The good news is that the Class of 2017 has three options, and you can choose the one that plays to your strengths.

Option 1: Take the ACT and avoid the drama! It’s not changing, there will be no surprises, and unlike the new SAT there is plenty of practice material available. And as far as application requirements, every college accepts the ACT.

Many students will do just as well or better on the ACT than on the SAT. So how do you know if the ACT is “your test”? Take a practice test for each and compare your scores using the charts at http://www.act.org/solutions/college-career-readiness/compare-act-sat/. If you took the PSAT last fall, just use your PSAT score.

Option 2: What if your practice tests suggest the ACT is not the best test for you? You can still take the current SAT before the College Board retires it. While most students take their first SAT or ACT in the 2nd half of junior year, there is no rule that you have to wait that long. The current SAT will be given several more times before the new test is introduced—from now through January 2016 and, if your school offers the “School Day” SAT, in February 2016 as well.

Just like with the ACT, there are lots of practice materials available and no surprises. You might even be glad to get your testing out of the way a little early. (However, I don’t recommend starting too early; this is only an option for current sophomores, because after their class some colleges will stop accepting scores from the current SAT.) This option will be more and more limited as March 2016 approaches, but right now there’s plenty of time to prep and take the exam, and re-take it if necessary.

Option 3: Sophomores can stick with the traditional schedule and give the new SAT their best shot. While I don’t recommend this option, I’m not as adamant about it as some advisors I know who are insisting that 10th graders avoid the new SAT at all costs. After all, everyone who takes the new SAT will be in the same boat.

For me the bottom line is that students think it through and make an informed decision while they have choices. I also recommend developing a testing plan that looks at the big picture. Choose your main test and your SAT Subject Tests and decide when to take each exam, keeping in mind your other obligations, such as extracurricular activities. Once you have your timeline, decide when and how to prep.

Finally, remember that many schools have test-optional or test-flexible options that allow students to apply without these exams or to de-emphasize them. The full list (available at http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional) includes more than 800 4-year schools, and new schools are being added all the time. And also know that these tests are only one part of your application. No matter what tests you ultimately take or what scores you ultimately get, there are dozens of schools that could be a good fit for you, both academically and personally.

Becky Claster is the head of Claster Educational Services. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ClasterEducation.

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