studying for college admissions exam

How the Changes to the SAT Exam May Affect You

Our mission at IvySelect is to guide each of our students successfully through the complex process of admissions to the most highly selective colleges and universities. A key element of the admissions process is the score that you achieve on the SAT or ACT tests, either of which may be submitted as part of your application package. Until colleges express a preference for one test over another, IvySelect advocates that you play to your strengths and choose the test that fits you best. We help you to make this decision.

IvySelect, as your college admissions consultant, keeps you apprised of major changes to the SAT and ACT exams. The most recent changes are the revisions to the SAT that take effect in March. This is the most comprehensive revision of either exam in more than a decade, so the characteristics of the new SAT may affect your decision of which test to take.

According to the College Board, the organization that produces the SAT, the new SAT is based on the latest research on the core knowledge and skills that colleges value most. The test integrates the influences of the ACT and Common Core while incorporating a greater focus on higher-level reading, writing, and analysis.

The Board has made a substantial effort to help students prepare for the new test. Its website offers free timed practice tests as do Khan Academy and other free online resources. In addition, the Board has established a mobile app that offers several new practice questions every day. Since the plan to revise the SAT was announced in early 2015, the Board has been cooperating with providers of SAT prep materials and courses including Kaplan, Signet, Princeton Review, Sylvan, Applerouth, Veritas and many other excellent smaller firms and private tutors in order to foster a successful transition to the new SAT.

The test preparation community has had several months to prepare for the new exam. A consensus is building that the revised SAT is superior to and more rigorous than the current SAT. It is considered by many to be more aligned with college-level thinking, reading, and writing. A scientific analysis of test results data won’t be possible until 2018, but we anticipate that the new test will have substantially greater predictive value for success in college than the current version of the SAT.

In considering the criticisms of the new SAT that are now circulating, please note that the SAT was never meant to be an IQ test. Its purpose is to assess the knowledge and skills of students in order to reliably predict their potential to perform academically at the college level.

The new SAT has changes in the entire exam. Some parts have been discontinued, a few restructured, and one, the Essay, made optional. The revisions will primarily benefit students with advanced reading skills and those who have taken a curriculum in which they have been exposed to advanced texts in a range of disciplines. Students who have taken several AP courses will also have an advantage. Conversely, students who are not proficient readers will have more difficulty since sound reading skills are useful in all parts of the exam, including Math.

The new SAT also benefits students who struggle with the speed at which they must proceed through an exam. Students taking the SAT will receive 40% more time per question than they will in the ACT and significantly more time than in the current version of the SAT. The Board has said that speed has become less relevant to college-level work, so it is of diminishing value on the SAT.

Above, we advised you to play to your strengths in choosing the SAT or the ACT. The differences in the characteristics of the tests are easily identified, but knowing your own strengths is not as simple. When IvySelect begins an engagement, our first task is to learn about your goals, academic record, preferences, skills, and interests as well as what you perceive to be your strengths and weaknesses. We help you to identify, refine, and focus on your strengths as part of the strategy that we develop with you so your best self is presented to the elite institutions that you target for admission.