Should juniors in high school take the new SAT test?
This is a question that many 11th graders are stressing out about as the rollout for the new SAT approaches. The dramatically overhauled test will make its premiere on March 5, 2016.
Juniors will be the first to grapple with this question because the launch date of the new test will be too late for seniors. Meanwhile, ninth and tenth graders can sit back and read the reviews of the new test before they have to decide whether to take the ACT or the SAT.
In the video below, I asked Adam Ingersoll, who is a founder of Compass Education Group, a test-prep firm based in Beverly Hills and San Francisco, to share his advice on which test juniors should take. He also discussed differences among the new and old SAT and the ACT.
I sought out Ingersoll because his firm, which provides test prep to students around the globe, has annually produced an extremely helpful guide that among other things compares the ACT and SAT and provides updates on standardized test changes.
If you have questions about the SAT or ACT, I’d urge you to download a free copy of the 80-page resource entitled, The Compass Guide to College Admission Testing 2015-2016.
Standardized Test Choices for Juniors
Juniors, who are trying to figure out what standardized test to take, have the following three standardized-test options:
Current SAT. Dates: Oct. 3, 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.
Which Test to Take?
Here is what Ingersoll had to say about the three choices that juniors face:
It’s best to avoid being a guinea pig for the new SAT.
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. All students should take the new PSAT offered at their school in October 2015 to see if they are one of the rare exceptions who is perfectly suited for the new SAT despite the compromises.
Ingersoll’s issue with the current SAT – discontinued as of January 2016 – is that the compressed timeline forces Juniors to try to peak on the test earlier than is realistic. Data show that very few students are able to peak on college admission tests until the end of 11th grade or fall of 12th grade.
For most Juniors, it’s always been a smart move to wait to take the SAT until second semester of 11th grade. This can especially be helpful for faring better on the math portion of the test.
If this year’s Juniors rush to take the current SAT by January and aren’t satisfied with their scores (likely the case), they wouldn’t be able to take that version of the test again. These Juniors would then either have to tackle the new SAT or the ACT, which are both significantly different from the soon-to-be-defunct SAT model.
Because of the likelihood of having to take the test twice – and remember Ingersoll’s clients are mostly affluent and their students typically do sit for the exam more than once – he believes it’s better for most juniors to ignore the old SAT.
Current SAT Exceptions
Ingersoll did say that there are a few Juniors who are well-advised to take the old SAT.
Juniors who scored at the 90+ percentile level on their Sophomore PSAT (the old version) and who have aced a practice test for the old SAT may want to go ahead and take it. These superstars probably wouldn’t have to take the SAT more than once.
Ingersoll believes the best option for most juniors will be the ACT. This test is a known quantity and if a student doesn’t do well on the ACT, it will be easier to transition to the new SAT than it would be to move from the old SAT to the new SAT version.