Part III: What does this mean for me?

The implications of the SAT redesign will depend on a student’s year of graduation.

Students and parents in the Class of 2016: you can ignore the new SAT altogether. You will complete all of your standardized testing by December 2015 at the very latest, and as such you will be unaffected by the SAT redesign launching in March 2016.

Class of 2017: you’re not quite so lucky. Unfortunately, the change in the test format will hit right in the middle of your prime standardized testing window, in the spring of 2016. As such, you will need to rethink your standardized testing strategy and the information contained in the post below is most crucial to you.

Class of 2018 and beyond: don’t panic. By the time you get around to preparing for standardized tests, counselors and test preparation companies will have a clear idea of what the new SAT is all about. By the autumn of 2016, there will be an adequate number of sample tests and practice questions to refer to and the kinks that come with any brand-new product should hopefully be ironed out. Read on below, but make sure to check back in the spring of 2016 for news and updates following the launch of the new SAT.
Students who plan to take the new SAT face the following scenario:

An exam that looks and feels more like the ACT

In my previous post, I discussed at length the ways in which the new SAT will be redesigned to align more closely with the material students learn in the classroom. By refashioning itself as a test of curricular achievement, the SAT will much more closely resemble the ACT, which has long been considered a more accurate measure of college readiness than its sole competitor in the high school standardized testing space. The ACT already includes advanced math topics like trigonometry as well as data interpretation questions, which the SAT will be incorporating come March. In addition to the substantive changes to the test, the planned format modifications, namely the elimination of the guessing penalty and the reduction in the number of multiple-choice options, undeniably mimic the ACT.

A more rigorous exam

The new test will feature advanced mathematical concepts, new question formats that require graphical interpretation, more complex critical reading passages, as well as an essay component that requires test-takers to use evidence to build an argument. This is all part and parcel of the College Board’s attempt to align their product to “real world” situations and better assess students’ readiness for college / the professional environment. The net effect for the vast majority of test-takers, however, is that the SAT will be more challenging – than both current SAT and the ACT. From my reading of the sample questions thus far released, the level of sophistication and difficulty on the new SAT is significantly higher than that of its rival.
By next year, the SAT and ACT will no longer be different tests for different types of students.They will both evaluate approximately the same skill-set, but the SAT will be the more rigorous of the two. Given this evolution in the standardized testing landscape, it only makes sense going forward for international students to give greater

consideration to taking the ACT, and for tutors and test preparation companies to give this exam equal billing in their course offerings.
Yet in addition to the long-term considerations outlined above, those who plan to take the SAT in 2016 will face further concerns:

Uncertainty surrounding interpretation of test results

University admissions officers, counselors, and test prep professionals are doing everything they can to stay abreast of information related to the SAT redesign. While universities will be readily accepting scores from the new test, the international admissions officers I have spoken with have been frank in saying they do not know exactly how to interpret the new test. This is because there is currently no guidance from the College Board on scoring. In fact, the organization plans to delay the release of scores from both the March and May test dates in order to have time to develop an accurate bell curve. As such, the colleges will be taking a “wait and see” approach with the new test, and it is likely to take some time for them to work out exactly what it is telling them about applicants.

A lack of preparation materials

The new SAT requires an entirely new set of preparation materials, including practice tests, books and courses. As of June 4 students do, of course, have free access to the Official SAT Practice, delivered online by Khan Academy, and designed in partnership with the College Board. However, given many students and parents’ preference for face-to-face tutoring, the Khan Academy will not fulfill everyone’s needs, nor will we have the diversity of materials, specifically past exams, to which we can refer. All of the UAE-based SAT tutors and test preparation companies I have discussed the matter with described the material we currently have on hand to prepare for the new SAT as woefully inadequate. The last time the College Board made changes to the test in 2005, test prep companies had to revise their products heavily in the months after the first new tests were given. So as hard as they may be presently working to develop new preparation materials, by examining every piece of information the College Board releases about the new test, until March 2016, they are, to an extent, flying blind. It is safe to assume that the quality of preparation materials and instruction will be higher in the autumn of 2016, once the first three iterations of the test have been released.

Ultimately, while all students face the prospect of a tougher test that is more like the ACT, students in the class of 2017 have the particular misfortune of playing guinea pigs for the College Board’s new product launch. If the 2005 redesign of the SAT is anything to go by, there will be problems with the rollout of the new test in March, to the detriment of the students taking the first three iterations.

Fortunately, students planning to take standardized tests in the first half of 2016 do have another option. This group, more than any other, should consider taking the ACT, an exam that has remained largely the same for decades and for which students have access to a wide array of high-quality practice materials. Once the March, May and June iterations of the new SAT have been released, students can reevaluate the choices available to them. But until then, it’s best to be safe than sorry and pick the ACT. The college application process is stressful enough without having to contend with a standardized test about which students, parents, tutors, counselors and universities all have a serious lack of information.