Sarah Newlin, Testive’s Guidance Counselor Outreach Consultant, explores how guidance counselors are preparing for the NEW SAT and what advice they’ll be giving parents and students.
So, what are guidance counselors saying to their students about the NEW SAT? In truth, not all that much just yet. Most are still figuring out for themselves what the changes mean for the test content and most don’t want to pile unnecessary stress onto students and parents. After all, the College Board is still in the process of releasing information about the new test to the public.
That said, most counselors seem to fall into two camps in terms of the advice they are giving:
Camp 1: Focus on the ACT
The theory behind this position is that the ACT has been a pretty stable test for quite a while. This translates to more public knowledge about the test and the availability of more high quality practice materials. In short, test-takers and those who help them prepare for the tests, can better predict what the ACT will be like on test day.
On the other side, the College Board will only have limited “official” practice material available and even that will not be as vetted as current SAT practice material such as the Blue Book. Until a few administrations of the new test have passed and any kinks have been worked out, the test content will simply be somewhat unknown and unknowable.
This seems to be a popular stance, as evidenced by the ACT outpacing the SAT in terms of the number of students taking it. In fact, recent articles in national magazines such as Forbes even espouse this view.
Camp 2: Take them both, then pick one and take it again
This approach recognizes that different students often perform differently on different tests. Logical, right? In the past this has certainly been true. The questions on the SAT and the ACT, while ostensibly testing similar math concepts, vocabulary and reading comprehension skills, have always been pretty different in methodology and presentation. The SAT has the reputation of being more susceptible to so-called “tricks” and testing strategies, while the ACT has the reputation of being more of a content-based test.
The funny thing about the NEW SAT though, is that the changes seem to make it more like the ACT. So, it may be that differences in performance will be less pronounced than in the past. But again, we won’t really know for quite some time. In the meantime, this strategy remains as sound as the other for many students out there.
What to Do
In deciding which approach to take (or neither), keep in mind that for the Class of 2017 and beyond, the NEW SAT will, at some point, stop being spoken of as the NEW SAT and simply become the SAT. It is the one they will take, should they choose to take the SAT (and PSAT). There won’t be a choice in the matter in terms of what version of the SAT to take, just a choice between the ACT and the SAT.
This whole conversation has a limited lifespan and is really most relevant for current sophomores who took the PSAT last fall and will take it again next fall as juniors. The upcoming PSAT will be in the new style – so they will have experience with both the old and new versions of the test. But no one else will (at least very few others will…some current sophomores or even a few freshman have maybe taken the current SAT).
So our advice, and the advice of most guidance counselors is – don’t let this be cause for panic! Choose your strategy and then, get ready! And, when you do start prepping, however you choose to prep, make sure you are using up-to-date material that is geared to the version of the test you will be taking.