Obviously, there has been a lot of talk about the current and new SAT, and parents with students in the Class of 2017 are confused by conflicting advice. I have managed our SAT Prep program for over 10 years (including a prior test change), and three of my four daughters participated in our program. In fact, my youngest daughters (twins) actually completed their ONE & ONLY SAT in December of their junior years. Both of them enrolled in our “summer” SAT Prep program and completed the 2nd half of the program right before the December test.
1) What should you do?
As long as students have completed geometry by the end of their sophomore years AND have time to prep for the SAT during the summer or fall, they need to take the current SAT or ACT. They should register for the October and December SAT tests AND request the “question and answer service” from the College Board for the October test. You will receive a copy of the test booklet and answers so we can review their mistakes before the December test.
2) Why the current SAT?
The current SAT is a known commodity. We know how to prepare students for the test and help them exceed their perceived potential. That’s right: many of our students score MUCH higher on their actual SAT than other students with comparable GPAs. Moreover, why would you skip a known test and risk everything on one that is unknown to everyone!
3) What about the ACT?
For many students, the ACT is a viable alternative. You should take practice tests for the ACT and SAT to see if you are much more suitable for one than the other. The SAT is easier to coach because it is a trickier (yet predictable) test that lends itself to a number of effective test taking strategies. Our MegaPrep program will prepare you for both tests, and MANY of our MegaPrep students actually score higher on the ACT than students who only completed ACT Prep.
4) So if it’s so obvious, why isn’t there agreement amongst the experts?
There are MANY test prep experts who agree with our opinion and some that don’t. The most obvious concern is that juniors aren’t ready to take the test in the fall of their junior years. And some juniors aren’t (e.g. super low math students and/or those who are really struggling in school). BUT, there are only three months between the December and March test dates and one of those months is consumed by winter break and final exams! And, you can still take the current SAT in January, only two months before most students would have taken it anyways. We have helped hundreds of juniors ace the SAT in the fall! In fact, I just spoke (1/15/15) to a Monte Vista junior student of ours who scored a 2,250 on the November SAT (up 400 points from her initial diagnostic of 1,850).
5) What about the PSAT?
This is yet another reason why some students absolutely, positively must prep for and take the current SAT. If you’re near the top of your class, you have the potential to earn a National Merit Scholarship (and other prestigious and/or monetary awards) based on your PSAT scores. If you prep for the current SAT, your prep will help you ace the PSAT.
6) Most Juniors Who Take Fall Tests Take Them Again
I don’t believe that there are any statistics one way or the other but it would NOT surprise me if this is actually the case. But it’s NOT because they weren’t capable of acing the test the first time! Many juniors who have taken fall tests in the past did NOT take them seriously. I’ve heard many parents state that they wanted their children to take a real practice test before they took the “actual” test the following spring. Obviously, students in the class of 2017 will have a completely different mindset. In fact, they will have a huge incentive to ace the test so they do NOT have to deal with the new SAT!