Tag Archives: College Board

Should You Take the SAT or ACT with Essay?

Few colleges now require the essay when you take the SAT or ACT. In fact, in 2016, the College Board made the essay optional, stating: “While the College Board remains steadfast in its commitment to the importance of analytic writing for all students . . . one single essay historically has not contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam.”

Yet, for the Class of 2017, 1.2 million students wrote the SAT essay (70% of total test-takers), and 1.1 million students wrote the ACT essay (53% of total test-takers).

Currently, there is a strong movement among colleges to no longer require the SAT or ACT essay. According to the Princeton Review, only 19 colleges still require the essay, of which 9 belong to the University of California system. In fact, no colleges state that they use the essay for admission, though some state that they use the essay for course placement.

Harvard explained that its decision was part of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI), to broaden its outreach. Registration for the ACT costs $46 without the essay, and $62.50 with the essay; the SAT costs $47.50 without the essay, and $64.50 with the essay. The university emphasized that students still have a variety of ways to demonstrate their writing skills – through the Personal Essay required by college application platforms, Harvard’s own Writing Supplement, and an optional writing portfolio.

 

COLLEGES THAT REQUIRE THE SAT OR ACT ESSAY
Claremont McKenna College
Martin Luther College
Schreiner University
Soka University of America
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
United States Military Academy
UC, Berkeley
UC, Davis
UC, Irvine
UCLA
UC, Merced
UC, Riverside
UC, San Diego
UC, Santa Barbara
UC, Santa Cruz
University of Miami
University of Montana Western
University of North Texas *
Wellesley College *

*only requires essay with ACT
Source: The Princeton Review

OUR RECOMMENDATION

We recommend that for upcoming SAT or ACT tests, you do not register for the essay unless you plan to apply to a college that requires the essay. In other words, even if a college recommends the essay (without requiring it), we feel that you do not need to take the essay because typically it does not play a role in the college admissions review process. Alternatively, if you excel at writing and do not mind the additional expense or time, you certainly can opt to include the essay in your standardized testing plans.

There is increasing complexity surrounding the requirements for taking and reporting standardized testing, including the ACT, SAT, Subject Tests, AP exams, and IB exams.  If you would like guidance, feel free to contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

College Board Offers SAT in August, ACT adds July Test Date

The College Board began offering the SAT and Subject Tests in August 2017 for the first time, and will be eliminating the January test date going forward. Fewer test centers were available in August, since schools have a lighter staff during the summer.

The ACT also changed its test schedule, adding a July test date, effective July 2018. Both February and July test dates are not available in NY test centers, but students can travel to another state if these particular test dates suit them.

Finally, the College Board has instituted a faster score release policy, in which scores for multiple-choice questions will be available 13-19 days after each test date; with essay scores available 24 days later. For example, for the October 7 test date, multiple choice scores have been available October 20-26; and essay scores will be available October 31.

Why is the College Board Adding an August Test Date?

The new College Board test date is likely a response to the increase in seniors applying through early admissions and the consequent growth in SAT testers in the fall (see chart below). Over the past decade, there has been a significant shift towards early applications, in which seniors apply in November, and receive notification in December.

In large part, students are taking advantage of the strategic boost of applying early. The admit rates are typically much higher, and colleges are filling an increasing percentage of their freshman class through early admissions, leaving fewer spots to fill during regular admissions. As a result, the entire standardized testing schedule has shifted to earlier test dates. For early admissions, students need to complete their testing (SAT, ACT and Subject Tests) by October.

In addition to the recently added July 2018 date, the ACT also offers a test in September, an ideal time for seniors because they can prepare over the summer, and are just starting to deal with the academic requirements of senior year. The SAT has been steadily losing ground to the ACT over the past few years, and a strategic modification of the testing schedule may be an effort by the College Board to recover ground.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 9.14.57 PM

Who Should Take the August Test?

The August test date is ideal for seniors who would like an additional chance to improve their SAT or Subject Test score after their junior year testing, or would like to take additional Subject Tests. The summer typically provides a less intense environment in which to prepare, without the pressures of schoolwork.

For rising juniors, we do not advise taking the SAT until November or December, because students typically experience meaningful growth and maturity over junior year, and continue to learn content that can boost their scores.

One exception, however, would be rising juniors who are pursuing athletic recruitment, and need early testing scores for coaches to make a determination about whether they are viable candidates.

For each student, deciding when and how often to take the SAT or ACT depends on a variety of factors, including whether you are applying to colleges through early or rolling admissions, the selectivity of your colleges, how much time you can devote to test preparation, and your competing time commitments. 

Test Centers for August SAT

Many test centers have chosen not to offer their sites for the August test date, creating a tight supply for what might be a large demand. For example, only 53 test centers will be available in New York, reflecting an 80% drop in the number of test centers from June to August. Brooklyn only has one test center, and it is already filled. As a result, if you are interested in the August test date, register as soon as possible so that you find a space, preferably at a test site that is convenient for you.

This interactive map by Compass Education Group shows the data for a selection of 12 states.

The college testing environment is constantly undergoing changes. To help you sort through testing options and plan for successful college admissions, contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

 

REFERENCE: 2017-18 SAT and Subject Tests Test Dates

Note that Subject Tests are not offered in March. Also, while Literature, US History, Math 1, Math 2, Biology, Chemistry and Physics are offered every testing date (but March), World History and Language tests vary by month. In addition, although you can choose to add more Subject Tests on the day of testing (with a maximum of three), the one test that you cannot add on the spot is Language with Listening, because that requires special equipment.

2017-18 SAT Subject Tests U.S. Administration Dates and Deadlines
SAT Date SAT Subject Tests Available Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline

August 26, 2017

Register

July 28, 2017

August 8, 2017 (for mailed registrations)

August 15, 2017 (for registrations made online or by phone)

October 7, 2017

Register

September 8, 2017

September 19, 2017 (for mailed registrations)

September 27, 2017 (for registrations made online or by phone)

November 4, 2017

Register

October 5, 2017

October 17, 2017 (for mailed registrations)

October 25, 2017 (for registrations made online or by phone)

December 2, 2017

Register

November 2, 2017

November 14, 2017 (for mailed registrations)

November 21, 2017 (for registrations made online or by phone)

May 5, 2018 April 6, 2018

April 17, 2018 (for mailed registrations)

April 25, 2018 (for registrations made online or by phone)

June 2, 2018 May 3, 2018

May 15, 2018 (for mailed registrations)

May 23, 2018 (for registrations made online or by phone)

 

 

Recent College Board Changes

Last weekend, the College Board introduced a totally revamped SAT.  The major changes include:

  • Return to two sections instead of three sections: (a) evidence-based reading and writing; and (b) math
  • Return to maximum score of 1600 instead of 2400
  • Words in context instead of esoteric vocabulary
  • No penalty for wrong answers
  • Optional essay (though highly recommended)
  • Free online test prep through College Board’s partnership with Khan Academy
Along with this redesign (effective March 2016), the College Board has announced several changes that may be relevant to your future testing plans.
  1. Effective summer 2017, an August test date will replace the January test date. The College Board will offer a new test date in August 2017, and will remove the test date in January 2018; as such, there will continue to be seven SATs each year, and the March test date will not offer Subject Tests (as at present). The new schedule will be as follows:

August
October
November
December
March (no Subject Tests)
May
June

 

  1. Effective May 2016, the College Board will make 3-4 official tests available through Khan Academy at no extra charge, as soon as scores are released. Presently, the College Board has made test booklets available through the QAS (Question-and-Answer) service. It is not clear whether the QAS service will continue.

 

  1. There will be delays in score reporting for at least the first three new SAT administrations in 2016. Scores from the March 5th SAT will be available mid-May, scores from the May 7th SAT will be available mid-June, and scores from the June 4th SAT will be available mid-July. Previously, scores were available online 19 days from the test date.

The landscape of standardized testing evolves continually and, in the case of this new SAT, significantly: test experts continue to weigh the impact of the test’s increased emphasis on reading comprehension. In a recent NYT article, Jed Appelrouth, founder of  a national tutoring service, estimated that the new math test was “50 percent reading comprehension.” In a separate  blog post, he added that “students will need to learn how to wade through all the language to isolate the math.”

Follow us in order to keep on top of updates in all areas of college admissions!

What You Need to Know About Test Score Delays

Nearly every year, the college admissions process suffers some sort of hiccup. Two years ago, the Common App crashed in a spectacularly disastrous manner, and this year, the ACT and College Board seem to be following suit: both have announced significant delays in score reporting, leading to a fair amount of frustration and anxiety among students and parents.

As with the Common App, it’s important to understand the situation, and of course remain calm. Here’s what you need to know.

College Board Delays Rush SAT Score

Last Thursday, the College Board sent an email informing test takers that, due to an unexpectedly high volume of requests, SAT score report orders placed on or after October 15 would be delayed. As a result, it is likely that these reports will not reach colleges in time by November 1st early action and early decision deadlines.

Understandably, the news left many college applicants frustrated, and others fearing that the delay may negatively impact their admissions chances.

According to the College Board, the organization is working to deliver score reports as quickly as possible, and has notified colleges of the situation:

“We are reaching out to colleges with early action/early decision deadlines of Nov. 1 to make them aware of the situation, and we are encouraging them be flexible should scores arrive late.”

It remains to be seen, however, how flexible colleges may or may not be. As a result, applicants should self-report their scores to their colleges as soon as available.

Major Delays in Obtaining September and October ACT Scores

Similarly, the ACT organization announced last week that there would be a delay in processing scores from the September and October test administrations due to the high volume and test takers, and enhancements to the writing portion. This is doubly frustrating for students, given that colleges won’t accept the ACT scores without the writing component.

The result, again, is that many students fear missing early decision deadlines. Steve Kappler, vice president of brand experience for ACT, has tried to explain the situation, though his answer, reportedly, has not been particularly comforting to test takers or colleges.

“We understand that some students may be facing important application deadlines. Students who took the ACT with writing may view their multiple-choice scores…on the ACT student website. Official score reports, however, cannot be sent to students, high schools or colleges until the writing test scoring is complete.”

Because deadlines are nearing, the ACT has urged colleges to accept screenshots of students multiple-choice scores as a provisional measure until official scores are sent. Additionally, students are urged to send colleges a copy of the email they receive from ACT (along with a screenshot of their multiple-choice test scores), in order to verify that they are among the students affected by this issue; and to self-report the October scores as soon as they become available.

Response of Colleges

The response of colleges has varied. Many colleges have assured students that the delays will not impact a full read of their application, while others have been less accommodating.

Columbia University stated:

“If you are an Early Decision applicant and your ACT scores from the September or October testing date have been delayed, we will accept a screenshot of your results. Official scores are required once they become available.”

Similarly, University of Pennsylvania encouraged applicants to submit their applications, self-report scores, and submit official score reports as soon as they become available, adding that “provided that your official scores reach us by the end of November, we will be able to consider them for Early Decision.”

MIT has simply said, “We will wait for your October and November test results.”

But other colleges are not extending themselves to accommodate the delays. For instance, Boston College states:

“While we will make every effort to include October ACT results in our evaluation of Early Action applications, it is unlikely that they will arrive in time to be considered. Students should designate Boston College as a recipient of these results on or before the day they take the exam to ensure swiftest possible delivery to the Office of Undergraduate Admission.”

On Friday, October 30, 2015, Yale University sent applicants the following email…and a few life tips at the end (emphasis ours):

“If you took the September ACT, Yale should receive your scores in time for Early Action consideration. Similarly, if you placed an SAT score report order on or after October 14, Yale should receive your scores in time for Early Action consideration. Do not worry if your scores do not arrive by November 1. Scores that are received by the first week in December will arrive in time for Early Action consideration and will be considered without prejudice.

Please understand that we cannot guarantee that we will receive October results in time to be considered in the Early Action admissions process.

Plan ahead! You do not need to wait to take the tests on the very last eligible date. 

What Should You Do?

Stay calm during this frustrating time! Stay informed about the policies of your colleges by going onto their websites for updates, and following them on Twitter and Facebook. If your college will not accommodate the late reporting of test scores, and you feel you will be disadvantaged by not including these recent scores, then consider delaying your application until regular decision.

As this situation develops, more questions are almost certain to arise. For more guidance and information, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.

Ask the Experts: Should I Take the New SAT?

The redesigned SAT will debut in the spring of 2016. As a result, many current sophomores must decide whether to prep early and take the old SAT before the change, wait and take the new version of the SAT, or avoid the SAT altogether and focus on the ACT.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this dilemma. There are many different types of students and test-takers, and we hope that by asking the right questions, we can provide you with the proper tools to make an informed decision.

Collegiate Gateway has asked several of New York’s top test prep tutors for their insight and advice. The following people graciously responded to our questions:

  • Jed Applerouth, founder of Applerouth, with offices in New York, DC, LA, Atlanta, Seattle, Savannah, Chicago
  • Peter Baum, test prep tutor in Manhattan and San Francisco
  • Alex Freedman, Advantage Testing Director of Connecticut office and senior tutor in Manhattan; Advantage has 16 offices throughout the US, and an office in Paris
  • Lisa Jacobsen, Founder and CEO of Inspirica, with offices in New York, Boston and Philadelphia
  • Phyllis Jencius, test prep tutor on Long Island
  • Bill Ma, test prep tutor on Long Island, author of CliffNotes SAT CramPlan, CliffNotes ACT CramPlan, CliffNotes GMAT CramPlan, 5 Steps to a 5 AP Calculus AB, 5 Steps to a 5 AP Calculus BC
  • Frank Pomilla, president and founder of Test-Takers, with 11 offices throughout the Greater New York area.

Here’s what they had to say!

Do you have general suggestions for current sophomores concerning which of the tests to take: old SAT, new SAT, or ACT? 

Expert Consensus: Many of our experts are avoiding the new SAT, instead recommending that students take the current SAT in the fall or early winter of their junior year, or simply focus on the ACT. However, some experts disagree and feel that the redesigned SAT is a viable option, especially for high achieving students.

Jacobsen: Sit for diagnostics (preferably right after school ends this year) in both the current SAT and ACT. See which test yields a better score and/or shows more promise for improvement. If there is a better feel for the ACT or the ACT yields a significantly better score – problem solved! No need to worry about the redesigned SAT (or it could be considered later when we have more information about it). Student could sit for the ACT as 11th graders normally would in February, April or June of 2016. If there is a better feel for the current SAT or the current SAT yields a significantly better score, then consider an accelerated preparatory program for this test.  Current SAT prep would begin ideally over the summer before 11th grade and into the fall. Students could then sit for the SAT on a few of the fall/winter test dates: October, November, December – the last one being in January of 2016.

Freedman: Rather than speculate, students should take multiple diagnostics for both the ACT and the new SAT in simulated conditions. Some good news is that there will now be substantially more overlapping content on both tests. By early 2016, practice test results should make clear to both student and tutor which test is best for the student. For this reason, we respectfully disagree with those who suggest that students should avoid the new SAT altogether in favor of the ACT. Certain students will be better suited to take the new SAT; it makes no sense for these students to take a test for which they are less naturally inclined simply for fear of the unknown. Students who are ready to work hard will have ample time and materials to excel on this test.

In most circumstances, we would not advise current sophomores to plan to take the old SAT because the opportunities for repeat testing will be so limited and they would be placing a great deal of weight on a single test outcome. However, a student who is very advanced, has a robust vocabulary, and is performing exceptionally well on simulated practice tests could be poised to excel on the old SAT on or before January 2015.

Applerouth: Figure out by the beginning of summer whether you are better suited for the current SAT or the ACT. You can use the sophomore PSAT as a proxy for the current SAT, or simply take a practice SAT. To establish a baseline score on the ACT, take a practice test. Students should use official, calibrated materials to yield the most accurate baseline score.  Compare the scores and make a decision based on the relative percentiles.

Baum: Of course, every student’s needs are different, but I’m generally shying away from the new SAT in the short-term. The SAT people are still working out the kinks on how the test works, and I don’t see a compelling reason to make my students guinea pigs for the new test. I’m recommending to higher-scoring kids that they plan to take the old SAT twice by January of their junior year. For kids who may need more development time, they can take the April and/or June ACT. Outside of New York, the February ACT is an option as well.

Pomilla: Our stance is evolving, but it seems to make sense to get an early jump on the SAT, while it’s still in its familiar format, since our experience has shown that the current SAT is the most coachable exam for the greatest number of students. (The ACT’s emphasis on speed is a hard hurdle for some students to overcome, even with coaching.) This means starting SAT preparation in the summer between sophomore and junior years, or in the early fall by latest.  In sum, then, my advice to the class of 2017: Prep early for the SAT to take advantage of the current format. If needed—and only if needed!—take the ACT or redesigned SAT later in the year; there will be some, but not total, carryover of the prep you’ve already done for the current SAT.

Jencius: If current sophomores are strong in the critical reading, math, and writing skills sections as demonstrated by the 2014 PSAT they have taken, I would encourage them to prepare this year and the beginning of next and take the current format of the SAT in December/January. By doing so, they also allow themselves time to consider the ACT, which I would recommend taking in April/June 2016.   

Ma: The new test is supposed to be very different. The problem is that the College Board released only 48 sample math questions about a month and a half ago, but not a full test, which will have 58 questions.  They are still doing research on what the new test should be and haven’t settled on a final version of what it looks like. For that reason alone, I tell the 10th graders that we don’t have all the information, so they are better off focusing on the ACT, or if they really want to take the SAT, should focus on the old SAT.

How would you compare the current SAT, new SAT and ACT?  Do you think the new SAT is truly intended to align more with Common Core or to be more similar to the ACT?

Expert Consensus:  Most of our experts agree that the new SAT is steeped in Common Core and is intended to compete with the format of the ACT. They mention that while the new SAT looks harder, the ACT has already become more difficult in order to compete with the format of the new SAT. There is some disagreement, however, as to whether or not a Common Core foundation will affect most students’ scores.

Jacobsen: Well, the short answer is that the new SAT will do both. The College Board has taken on the difficult task of aligning itself to the Common Core, while at the same time, distinguishing itself from the ACT, which has been traditionally cited as being more aligned to the Common Core. Quite a quandary! The redesigned SAT appears to show many more similarities to the ACT – the new SAT writing section, in fact, appears almost identical to the current ACT English section. What’s more, the redesigned SAT will include those math topics that are currently on the ACT and lacking on the current SAT. At the same time, though, the redesigned SAT will be even more steeped in the CCSS, evaluating deeper concepts and offering greater challenges than even the ACT.

Students who attend schools that are aligned to CCSS will be at least a little more comfortable with the material. The problem is that the Common Core Standards are not universally in place throughout the country, and thus huge pockets of students would have greater difficulty with this new material.

Ma:  Some of the questions of the new SAT will be very similar to the ACT. The College Board wants the questions to have real-life applications. For instance, on the current SAT, numbers divide comfortably, but in the new test, answers will have lots of decimals to duplicate real-life. Instead of a perfect line, they will have a “line of best-fit.” With the current SAT, you have to know how to manipulate algebra and recognize some tricks that don’t have to do with everyday math. Although the new SAT will have four more math questions than the current SAT (58 vs. 54), the new test will have only two math sections, one with a calculator and one without a calculator, whereas students can use a calculator in all three sections of the current SAT. Bright kids will do well on either test, but the training is different.  Also, the new SAT test looks harder, but there will be only four answer choices instead of five and no penalty for wrong answers [like the ACT], which will raise the score.

Pomilla: The redesigned SAT is deliberately aligned more with the Common Core than the ACT (but the ACT was more aligned to high school curricula than the current format, as the current SAT was deliberately designed to be largely curriculum-free, in College Board’s own phrasing). The new head of College Board is one of the architects of the Common Core (for better or worse!). The College Board is using the new SAT’s alignment with Common Core as a selling point. So, yes the redesigned SAT will be most aligned with Common Core, followed by the ACT, and trailing both is the current-format SAT. But, interestingly, this makes little difference in most kids’ scores.

Based on your experience, what kinds of students tend to do better on the ACT vs. the current SAT?

Expert Consensus:  The consensus among our experts is that students who prefer academic achievement tests, excel in math and science, and who don’t have issues with time during standardized testing tend to prefer the ACT.

Freedman: Students who are particularly strong in the sciences tend to enjoy the Science section of the ACT (likewise, students who have a phobia for all things science-related tend to be easily rattled by it). Also, some students prefer the more “academic feel” of the ACT as opposed to the multistage problem solving and test-specific approaches required for certain question types on the SAT.

Jacobsen: The ACT has usually proven to be the better choice for students who are more comfortable on the math/science end and who don’t usually struggle with time issues on standardized tests. The ACT has traditionally been labeled an “achievement” test, so good grades in school usually translate well on the ACT. The current SAT has been more of a “reasoning” test – good for students who can think on their feet. The format of the test also allows for a bit more time per question, and is generally preferred by students who have time issues on standardized tests. And, of course, the current SAT has those classic “SAT words.”

Who should consider taking the new SAT?

Expert Consensus:  There is a consensus among our experts that high-performing students will continue to do well on the redesigned SAT, but they may have to train for it in new and different ways. There is some disagreement, however, as to whether those students should take the new SAT over any of the others.

Applerouth: Academically superior students should do very well.  Students who will be well suited for the new SAT will excel at critical thinking, advanced math, and reading and comprehending advanced texts. Due to this skill set, these students will likely also do well on the current SAT and ACT. Based on the problems that have been released to date by the College Board, the new SAT appears to be the most rigorous assessment of the three; therefore, students ready for the hardest test will likely fare well on either of the current assessments. 

Freedman: Strong math students will not be intimidated by the more difficult math they will encounter on the new SAT. And voracious readers who are well versed in widely circulated newspapers and general interest magazines should be in a good position to do well on the new reading passages that will be drawn from diverse nonfiction subjects and include informational graphics.

Jencius: For students who feel “rushed” in preparing to take SATs early in their junior year, I would advise them to begin getting used to the new format.  There are materials that are becoming available and sample questions of redesigned format PSAT/SAT already online. Another valuable indicator of whether to prepare for the reformatted SAT will be the results of the new PSAT they will take in their junior year. This will serve as a rough barometer in determining if the new SAT test is right for them. Because the new SAT seeks to align itself with core curriculum, students should make a conscious effort to familiarize themselves with content area vocabulary, including math and science terminology. When examining course material, they should look beyond what may be the correct response and be prepared to justify why a particular answer is such. This is a particularly good practice because it fosters critical analysis and a deeper appreciation of text, skills inherent in performing well in high school, college, and beyond.

What’s your understanding of how the College Board will curve the first few new SATs?

Expert Consensus:  All of our experts believe that there is major uncertainty in knowing how the new SAT test will be curved, and when the test scores will be released. There is disagreement, however, as to whether or not this should be a factor in deciding to take the test.

Freedman: Our expectation is that the College Board will apply the same kind of scoring scale on the new SAT that it has on previous tests—a bell curve with standard deviations based on the number of test takers and the distribution of raw scores. There’s nothing tricky about this method of scoring, and there hasn’t been any suggestion that the Board will arbitrarily “curve up” the scores of the first few tests to allow for an easier transition.

A related point: I don’t think it makes any sense to try to anticipate how strong the pool of test takers will be for the new SAT and to plan a testing strategy around such speculation. For instance, one might think that many students will be unprepared for the new SAT, and so there might be a better chance to score well on the curve. But you could just as well argue that many students will be scared to take the first test and that those who take the new SAT will be especially well prepared. The truth is that no one knows how many people are going to take the new SAT in those first few administrations, and rather than worry about what other people are doing, students should focus on their own preparation.

Applerouth: A major wrinkle with the new SAT is that the test grading and score give back will be delayed for the March and May 2016 test administrations, allowing the College Board to norm the new tests and establish the new testing curve. With that critical delay of performance feedback for our students, I am less excited about the new SAT.

What role does the PSAT play in this new testing landscape?

Expert Consensus: The experts believe that significant PSAT prep is mostly relevant for students pursuing a National Merit Scholarship. For those students, however, the prep that they’ll do for the new PSAT may position them well to succeed on the new SAT.

Pomilla: For most students, the PSAT merely serves as a dry run for the test that matters to colleges, the SAT (or ACT). Those students should not fret about preparing seriously for an exam that is just practice.

For very high scorers (top 3% or so), though, the PSAT does carry significance as the qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship competition—a program that can result in a prestigious honor or even a scholarship. If your academic profile suggests you might be in line for National Merit recognition, my suggestion is to split the difference; spend a modest amount of time prepping for the PSAT, with the understanding that this year it might be only moderately useful in preparing you for the SAT.

Baum: If you’re focused on attaining a National Merit Scholarship, you’ll need to do significant preparation for the PSAT. Because that preparation will translate to the material on the new SAT, students going this route may want to consider taking the new test.

Resources for finding more information about the new SAT

If you are looking for an in-depth look at how to prepare for the new SAT, please check out the College Board’s website for practice questions and a detailed explanation of the differences between the new SAT, current SAT, and ACT.

Making these testing decisions can seem daunting when there is an unknown test involved, but hopefully these opinions will help you to begin your journey in finding your best-fit college. If you have any questions, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help!

Update: The New SAT

At this week’s annual conference of NACAC (National Association of College Admissions Counselors), Collegiate Gateway had the opportunity to speak directly with the staff of the College Board about plans for the new PSAT and SAT testing, to be implemented in 2015-2016. Upcoming changes were described as “evolutionary, not revolutionary.” Overall, the tests will be more context-based: both vocabulary and math problems will be viewed within a context and not presented in an abstract way.  Here’s the latest on the new PSAT and SAT.

Timing

Below is a chart of the launch date for the new PSAT and SAT, as well as when practice tests will be available.  The new PSAT and new SAT will have the same content, except that the SAT will have an optional essay.  In March 2015, the College Board is expected to post an online full-length practice PSAT, written by both Khan and the College Board.

TEST

LAUNCH DATE

AVAILABILITY OF PRACTICE TESTS

PSAT October 2015 March 2015
SAT Spring 2016 (probably March) May 2015

 

Content

The College Board identified the following features in their new approach to testing:

  • Relevant words in context: The tests will no longer include obscure words, but rather everyday words with meanings that are influenced by context.
  • Command of evidence. Students will be asked to demonstrate understanding of the evidence the authors of documents used to support his/her claim.
  • Focus on “math that matters most.” Three mathematical areas will be tested: algebra, problem-solving and data analysis, and higher-level math (including trigonometry, pre-calculus and statistics).
  • Problems grounded in real-world contexts. For example, math problems may relate to science applications, such as interpreting a chart on bacteria growth.
  • Analysis in science and social studies. Throughout the math, reading and writing questions, applications to science and social studies will be integrated. While there will not be a separate section for science (as in the ACT) or social studies, there will be a new score called “Insight,” to measure students’ grasp of the social sciences.
  • Founding documents and great global conversation. Every exam will have at least one example of a significant historical document, such as the Constitution. Students will be asked questions that require contextual understanding. For example, in the Gettysburg address, Lincoln uses the word “dedicated” seven times; students could be asked about the different meanings of the word, based on context.
  • Essay analyzing a source: optional section. Colleges continue to consider primarily the Critical Reading and Mathematics sections of the SAT; the Writing section (which includes the essay) has never caught on as an accepted portion of the SAT.  The College Board is now making the essay optional (similar to the ACT), though some colleges will require it. The prompt itself will not change, and will be available on the website www.deliveringopportunity.org.  Instead, the source material (passage) will change, and  students will be asked to identify how the author supports the thesis.  Students’ own opinions will no longer be involved.
  • No penalty for wrong answers.  The SAT has previously had a ¼ point penalty for wrong answers; the new test will not. Correct answers will receive 1 point; incorrect or omitted answers will receive 0 points, similar to the ACT approach to scoring. The goal is lessen the importance of test-taking and guessing strategies..

Though some colleges are becoming test-optional, standardized testing is still considered the third most important factor in college admissions, after grades and rigor of curriculum.  Colleges vary in their testing requirements, as well as what they consider competitive test scores for admission – sorting through it all can get complicated. If you need any help, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.