High School Students Stress Over New SAT Changes


Taking the SAT or ACT has historically caused US teenagers plenty of angst, but this year there is even more reason for high school juniors to worry. The College Board will be rolling out the new, overhauled SAT in March 2016, which will be better aligned with college-level thinking, reading, and writing – and it will be harder, too.

The new SAT will not be released in time for current high school seniors to take, and ninth and tenth graders have the privilege of waiting to see the reviews of the new test before they decide whether to take it.

CBS Money Watch’s Lynn O’Shaughnessy reports that 11th graders will have to step up to the plate and take the test before anyone else, or start looking at their other choices. The options are:

Current SAT dates: Nov. 7, Dec. 5, Jan. 23

New SAT dates: March 5, May 7, June 4

ACT dates: Oct. 24, Dec. 12, Feb. 6, April 9, June 11

Any students who are taking rigorous college-prep classes such as Advanced Placement courses will be more prepared for the new SAT. There will be more advanced content in the new reading section, but also in the essay and mathematics sections. The math questions are more complex and will have contextual word problems. The essay will be more difficult due to the addition of analytical and writing skills that are on a college-level.

So, what’s an 11th grader to do? The experts say they should not take the test yet.

“It’s best to avoid being a guinea pig for the new SAT,” said Adam Ingersoll, a co-founder of Compass Education Group, a test-prep firm based in both Beverly Hills, Calif., and San Francisco. “The available practice tests and scaling for the new SAT are half-baked compared to its competitor (the ACT), and there’s little reason to sit for this test until it establishes a track record.”

Meanwhile, the ACT may be the best option. Experts say it will be easier to transition from the ACT to the new SAT than to move from the old SAT to the new SAT.

College-bound junior Tatiana Davidson plans on taking all three choices, which are:

The current version of the SAT, with a maximum score of 2400;

The new version, to debut in March, with a maximum of 1600;

The ACT, more widely used nationwide, with a top mark of 36.

Davidson, a 16-year-old from Rockville, Md., took the PSAT/NMSQT, which does not count for college admissions, but is used to prepare students for the SAT. Juniors who get excellent scores can qualify for National Merit Scholarships and other awards. The revised PSAT/NMSQT provides a preview of the new SAT, write Nick Anderson and Moriah Balingit, reporting for The Washington Post.

For years, the College Board, which owns the SAT, has been criticized by some who think that high scores reflect parental income more than ability. First there is the $4.5 billion test-prep industry, which Time magazine says rewards families who have time and money. The higher scores of children from wealthy families also come from alleged cultural bias in some questions on the test and the difference in the quality of the schools wealthy kids attend compared to schools in low-income communities.

Molly Jackson, writing for The Christian Science Monitor, says the College Board is attempting to reduce the opportunity gap by offering free, online test resources called “Official SAT Practice” to low-income students.