Test Prep

Juniors: Current or New SAT?

Maybe you're like me. Maybe you don't like change. Once we get used to dealing with something, a sense of comfort emerges, no matter how small.

Such it might be with the SAT. You should know by now that the SAT is changing with the March 2016 administration. March 2016 may seem like a long time from now, but it will get here much faster than you realize.

Thus, the Big Question for high school juniors: Which SAT to take?

I received some SAT strategy advice from Mark Greenstein of Ivy Bound Test Prep. His approach makes sense, at least to me, and I though I would share it with you here today.


Mark says [with my emphasis noted]:

"There is a STARK difference between studying for the current SAT and waiting for the redesigned SAT. Though it's getting late, there are four reasons why almost every junior is better off with the current SAT.

1. Students can be done EARLY. Early lets you visit colleges more intelligently.  February - April are the best months to visit colleges. (June - Sept are the worst, and Oct - Dec are the hardest for busy kids). Early lets you have time for other school endeavors. And early lets you have time for non-school endeavors.

2. Study can be done well. Though we don't know the exact scaling, we do know the redesigned SAT will be harder to study for.

3. While junior-year class work MAY rub off to incrementally aid your junior's SAT study, good early SAT study will certainly aid students' English abilities in school. Maturity does incrementally grow in the junior year, but an intensive course targeting THE TEST gives you 'test maturity' faster. Academic competence surely expands in the junior year, but especially at better schools, it expands mostly in course work not tested on the SAT. Students will greatly improve in Science, Literature, Trigonometry, and Calculus this year, but none of these are tested on the current SAT!

4. For most students, spring is the WORST time to study for the SAT. It competes with:

- sports banquets

- driver Ed

- winter/spring service trips

- proms

- AP tests

- college visits

- finals

- and spring fever.

For students targeting Top-50 colleges who want SAT Subject Tests, the May and June Subject Tests directly compete with the SAT itself. You can't do both on the same day, and most students are best served using May and June for the Subject Tests. However, a student targeting the redesigned SAT can take it March 5 and then wait until October. Few students want to put up with that delay, though.

We prefer to see that strong students wanting to test in the spring take the ACT over the SAT. That's always been true for us. This year, with a "moving target" SAT, it's especially true.

Thus, unless your child has a serious varsity sport this fall (and not in winter or spring), we STRONGLY advise taking the SAT in December and January.

The ideal for most students (including Sophomores): Tutor now for the November, December and (if need be), January SAT. Take Subject Tests in January (if open), May, and June. Take APs in May."


Sage planning advice from Mark. Now, in case you haven't heard about the redesigned SAT, here's an overview. If you're a cynic about change, as I am sometimes, this may be the article for you: 3 Reasons You Shouldn't Take the New SAT.

So, juniors -- and parents of juniors -- evaluate test-taking strategy. Weigh the pros and cons of the redesigned SAT. Then, plan your work and work your plan. Best wishes for success!


Be sure to see my other college-related articles on College Confidential.