The SAT is changing. Lots of high school juniors are nervous.
Should I take the old SAT now and get it out of the way?
How will I be able to study for a test that hasn’t yet been administered?
Is this new test going to hurt my chance of admission?
I’ve been getting a lot of these questions from high school juniors. And I get it. It is scary to be the transition class.
But here is my advice: don’t worry about it.
Take the new SAT or the ACT, but don’t feel as if you have to cram in the old SAT and get your dream score before the test switches over. Putting that pressure on yourself is unnecessary and counterproductive.
I graduated from high school in 2006. I too was in the transition class when during the second half of my junior year in 2005, the College Board first introduced the test they are now getting rid of.
It was a scary time then, I remember. We didn’t know what to expect. People were afraid that college wouldn’t know how to interpret the new scores or that we would all test poorly because it would be difficult to study for an unknown test.
But honestly, things worked out fine, and in retrospect, the panic was overblown.
Here’s what happened to my friends who tried to take the “old SAT” before the test switched over:
1. They were very stressed out studying during the middle of junior year.
2. They were almost all dissatisfied with their scores.
3. They decided to take the test again when the new test came out.
4. They did better on the new test.
In retrospect, most of them wished they hadn’t bothered with the old test. It wasn’t because the new test was necessarily easier but more because taking the test later gave them more time to study and waiting to take the test until later has its advantages.
This time around not only do I think waiting has the same advantages as back then, but I think the new test is likely to be equivalent or even easier than its predecessor.
The College Board is losing ground to its main competitor, the ACT. The last thing they want is for you to go into a test feeling unprepared or disadvantaged. Making it harder to get a good score on the new test is not advantageous to the College Board and the future of the SAT. And they are also giving you good resources to prepare. There is an entire website devoted to helping you understand the new test.
Frankly, it doesn’t look all that different. If anything, it looks slightly less stressful than the previous version with less of an emphasis on obscure vocabulary words and the essay being optional.
And if you are really scared to take a new test, then just take the ACT instead.
Back in the day, people used to think that the ACT wasn’t as prestigious as the SAT and that it should only be taken if you lived in parts of the country where it was traditionally administered (parts of the South and Midwest).
Today, things are totally different. The popularity of the ACT has exploded around the country, and there is no disadvantage for taking the ACT no matter where you live.
The worst thing to do now is panic and try to get the perfect score on the old SAT before things change over. You don’t need to put that kind of pressure on yourself, and chances are, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.
Junior year is busy enough. You should spend your time trying to do well in your classes and making your transcript as strong as it can be (and taking on some leadership roles in your extracurricular activities), not cramming in the test prep studying.
I recommend that students wait until the spring of their junior year at the earliest to take the SAT or ACT and then to give themselves the chance to take it again in the fall of senior year if they want to improve their scores.
Most students find that their scores improve naturally between junior and senior year without any studying. And if you study over the summer when you don’t have other things to worry about, you can see massive boosts in performance.
Why stress yourself out now?
Whether you choose to take the new SAT this spring or opt for the ACT instead, you’ll be just fine.