Take the Current SAT

Four Reasons Why Your Students Should Take the Current SAT – by Vicki Wood

As the new school year starts, parents of sophomores and juniors are understandably going to be
concerned about the redesigned SAT, and more specifically, about which test their children should take—the current test, being
administered through January, or the brand new edition, coming to a testing center near you next March. Because these same
students will be experiencing the redesigned PSAT this fall and because the new test debut date is more in line with traditional
timeline recommendations, it may seem practical to recommend the redesigned test to current juniors and sophomores; test experts
across the country, however, are urging juniors and astute sophomores to take the current version of the test at least once before its expiration date in January. Let’s look at some reasons why.

The current test has proven preparation materials available. The present version of the SAT is ten years old, meaning that current test prep books and courses have ten years of data—from over 80 real SATs—to prove they are solid
study materials. With the release of only four new practice tests in The Official SAT Study Guide this
past summer, test prep experts are scrambling to make changes to their prep material based on
very limited content. Without the data and scoring scales generated by official administrations, these four tests are less than
ideal models for building entire curriculums and writing explanatory books. With each new SAT release, test prep companies will
fine tune their books and courses as some new nuance of the test is discovered that wasn’t assessed
in the previous versions. So by encouraging your students to
take the current SAT, you can be assured they have access to topnotch preparation materials and options instead of content created from scarce resources.

The current test is much easier than the redesigned SAT. If the members of the College
Board intended to produce a test that could finally compete with the ACT’S perceived “easiness,” they failed. Miserably. But
if their goal was to truly assess the Common Core Standards, they did a fine job. Unfortunately for students, though, that means
a much more difficult test is coming in March. Sure, the new, more demanding essay is now optional and there is no longer
a penalty for guessing, but some colleges will require the essay
and the guessing penalty gave astute students with educated guesses an edge while preventing random luck from raising test
scores. As for the actual increase in difficulty, there are a slew of new question types and added content: “science” questions
have been sprinkled throughout the Math, Reading, and Writing sections; the Math portion of the test requires one section to be
taken without a calculator now, all while increasing concentration on Algebra and requiring more advanced knowledge; some two part Reading questions require students to locate the evidence they used to answer the question; and the Writing section has
added punctuation errors, nearly doubling the number of grammar
concepts tested. The curve is sure to be forgiving, but that will mean little to intimidated students choosing between the SAT and ACT. Most experts agree that the current SAT is easier and more coachable than both the ACT and the new SAT, so students
would be wise to take it before the changes take effect.

Any preparation done for the current test will not be wasted preparation. While the College Board has stressed that the new test “will require a stronger command of fewer, more important topics,” test experts have had a hard time validating
this statement. There certainly are a lot of new topics being tested, but based on the official material that has been released so far, all of the content tested on the current test is being retained on the redesigned SAT as well. Even vocabulary. While it is a fact that the vocabulary-based Sentence Completion questions are being scrubbed, the test makers have moved more vocabulary into the passage-based Reading questions and even into some Writing questions. In the twenty-four sample Reading questions on the College Board website, we found twelve words—including “partisan” and “empirically”—that would challenge the average high school student. If juniors study for the current SAT and end up taking a different assessment at a later date, their preparation will provide a solid base of knowledge for both the redesigned SAT and the ACT.

The current test is understood by admissions officers. A final reason to take the SAT now, is that admissions
officers understand the current test and are thus able to better evaluate a student’s performance. When the present version of the SAT was unveiled in 2005, colleges didn’t know how to interpret the new Reading and Math scores and the Writing portion
of the test was virtually ignored because there were no other scores available for comparison (and ten years later, a relatively
large percentage of colleges still don’t know what to do with Writing scores). The College Board will release concordance tables, but without several administrations of official data backing those tables, they are often taken lightly by admissions officers. When the SAT changes, students who take it that first year may be unfairly disadvantaged in admissions.

There is some concern about the current SAT, though, because a few universities have yet to declare whether they will accept
its results from students in the Class of 2017 and beyond. At the time of this writing, no colleges have said they will not accept the current test; there are just a few that are still undecided. I emailed several of these undecided admissions offices and their representatives all acknowledged that when the test changed in 2005, they accepted results from the 2004 test. Most said a decision would be made this fall. We have a hard time believing that a perfect score on the current test will be ignored, and what they do for one student, they must do for all. Most test prep experts feel that all colleges will accept scores from the previous version of the test, just as they did in 2005. If your students simply cannot take the current SAT, then we suggest that you steer them toward the ACT, for many of the same reasons listed here. Although the ACT has changed slightly over the last year, the changes have been so subtle that most test takers didn’t even notice. Test prep experts will likely embrace the redesigned SAT in the future, after we see a year or two of data and learn how admissions officers interpret the results, but for now, most of us are recommending the October or November SAT for all juniors and for advanced sophomores, with follow-up opportunities for these same students in December and January.

Vicki is with Powerscore Test Preparation. She can answer any questions you may have about the SAT by e-mailing her at vwood@powerscore.com or visiting their website at www.powerscore.com.