Monday, February 1, 2016

New SAT vs. Old SAT vs. ACT

Catherine Donahue
Staff Writer

Just over a year ago, the College Board announced that the SAT would be changing for the first time in almost ten years in March 2016. The first class to be completely affected by this switch will be the Class of 2017, because juniors are the main group taking standardized tests in preparation for college applications the following year.
 In the past years, juniors could pick when to take the SAT from a list of test dates scheduled nearly every month. Many students chose to take the test in the fall or winter of their junior year, so that they could find out their scores and then retake the test in the spring or fall of their senior year.
 Students in the class of 2017 were posed with a major dilemma: the SAT is changing in the spring of this year, with the first new test taking place in March. Superscoring, defined by College Board as when “you submit scores from test dates of your choosing, and the schools cherry pick your best score from each section, creating a ‘superscore,’” is difficult now because scores from the old test before March and the new, updated test cannot be combined into a superscore.  
 Students were left wondering if it would be better to take the old SAT in the fall and winter, with only a couple of chances to better their score before they can never take the old SAT again, or to take the new SAT and risk being the guinea pigs for the College Board’s first installment of the new test. Or should they just ignore the SAT altogether and take the ACT, which has been essentially the same for decades?
 The logical answer would be for a student take all three tests: the new SAT, old SAT, and the ACT, and just submit to colleges whichever test he or she performed the best on. However, another problem comes into play that most people don’t realize, which is that many selective colleges require all scores from every test taken to be submitted when applying. This means that a student who may have only had one or two chances to take the old SAT will be required to submit both of these scores, even though they did not have the same amount of time to re-prepare and study from their winter test to take the spring test that students in previous years had.
 Another possible answer to the problem is to take the new SAT, ignoring the old SAT altogether. However, students don’t know what will be on the new test and students will risk getting a bad score because they don’t know what to expect on the test.
 A final option for students is to only take the ACT, which has been fundamentally the same for decades. The ACT has been the more popular of the two tests in the South, Midwest, and some parts of the West. The SAT is more popular in the Northeast and far West. Many parents of students in the areas where the SAT is more popular are unfamiliar with the ACT which makes them hesitant to allow their child to take only the ACT.
 There is a longstanding rumor that colleges don’t accept the ACT, and those that do favor SAT test takers. However, all colleges now accept the ACT and have for years, and claim to not favor one test over another.
 It is up to each individual student to decide if they feel the old SAT, new SAT or the ACT will be the best fit for them. Colleges don’t seem to care which test is taken, but with the late registration date quickly approaching for the last of the old SAT tests, students must decide promptly which test, or tests, they will take.

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