A year from now in March 2016, the SAT will change. The writing section is going away, penalties for wrong answers are going away and the topics covered by the SAT are changing. For more specific examples of the changes, take a look at the College Board’s description of the changes.
But, the real question for those of you who are sophomores right now is, should you take the ACT, the old SAT or the new SAT. You basically have three options. Learn more from Free E-Sign – Online Electronic Signature
Option one would be to wait until next spring and take just the new SAT. The potential issue with that approach is that despite the information that is coming out this is a completely redesigned test and there are some risks with being the guinea pig, so to speak. Will the test be harder than expected? Easier? Will the practice tests be a realistic example of the real test?
And what about scoring? Might it be easier because many strong students are looking at alternatives and might not take the SAT in the Spring leaving only weaker test takers to take the test.
Option two is to take the SAT earlier than normal and take it in the fall of 2015 or the January 2016 test. This will be the same format as it has been in and there are plenty of old actual tests with which to practice. The potential downside here is that it gives you less time to prepare for the exam and practice for the SAT is important. On the other hand, you do have plenty of time if you start preparing right now and take one test in the fall and a second test in January.
But what happens if you don’t do well on those two tests and want to try again? Now, you will be facing an entirely new test, that you have not prepared for, which means that potentially you will need to prepare all over again for the new SAT.
The other potential problem that is occasionally mentioned is the question of whether the colleges you are applying to will accept the old SAT for admissions. Unfortunately, many colleges have not yet made a statement about whether they will accept the old SAT for current high school sophomores.
Personally, I think this is a bit of a red herring because the chances that colleges won’t accept the old SAT under these circumstances is extremely small. This same issue was raised in 2005, the last time the SAT was redesigned, and every college that I am aware of accepted either the old or new exams. And why wouldn’t they. They want as many applications as they can get so they aren’t going to find ways to keep kids from applying.
The third option is to forget the SAT and study for the ACT. The ACT is not changing and you can study from all of the old actual ACT tests that are available.
In many ways the third option to just focus on the ACT is the simplest and easiest. But, the reality is that some students do better on the ACT and some do better on the old SAT. So even the easy route isn’t necessarily the best for you.
At this point I am continuing to recommend what I have always recommended and that is to take a practice ACT and a practice old SAT and see which one you do better on. In addition, start to take a look at the new SAT and what little information is available. The College Board for instance has released some questions that they say are similar to what will be on the new test. They also say that the free prep through Khan Academy for the SAT will be available in June 2015.
Hopefully, by this summer there will be better information out about the new test and the questions so that you can take a practice new SAT to compare to your results on the old SAT and the ACT. Unfortunately, you current sophomores are going to need to take this third step to make sure that you are taking the right test for your needs.