As you know, the SAT underwent a huge update last March. So—if you identify with the class of 2017—you may find yourself in a bit of a weird position in deciding how to deal with the changes and the new possibilities the updated test has to offer.
In the face of a new SAT and the reliable ACT exams still available, one possibility for you is to skip the new SAT and just take the ACT. Is that how to handle this or is it a bad move for new college applicants?
Let’s hash it out.
What’s different in the new SAT?
From the old SAT? A fair amount. But from the ACT? Surprisingly, not much.
The new SAT is making writing optional, and reducing score emphasis on vocabulary questions. In a lot of ways, these changes are borrowing from the ACT because the ACT is progressing more quickly. This means that feeling confident in the old SAT doesn’t necessarily mean the new SAT will be a good choice for you, because it’s going to be so different from the old version.
In the new SAT, there are some changes you may really like—there is no longer a penalty for wrong answers, so guessing is less of a stressor. There are only four answer options instead of five (which is the way the ACT operates, too). There’s the possibility that the vocabulary that prevails in the new SAT will be more familiar to you from classroom experience, but you’ll need to know multiple definitions for those words. The new version is also saying goodbye to sentence completion questions.
Now for the not-so-great news. The new SAT questions require multiple steps to get each answer, reading passages are more complex, foundational math is more important in this version, reasoning and critical thinking are (you guessed it) critical to a good score. Additionally, there are fewer sections in the new test but they are longer than the old version and take more time to complete.
How does that compare to the ACT?
The largest gap between the ACT and the new SAT is that the current version of the ACT has been active for years. The great thing about that is that the study materials for the ACT will be in much higher supply than those for the months-old SAT. You’ll have access to more practice tests, prep centers with experienced tutors, training books from publishers, and more.
Tests have methods—no matter the material. And, while the new SAT is still in its beginning stages, the ACT has been worked and reworked enough that the study method has become relatively concrete.
If the SAT has long been talked up around you as the test to take, you’re not alone. Many people from all walks of life have been hearing about the SAT as the be-all-end-all for years and years. However, more people now take the ACT than the SAT. Almost all colleges that take SAT scores also take ACT scores and place them in equal importance.
The bottom line.
If you’re in the class of 2017 and won’t begin your studies for your exam of choice until October 2016 or later, you may want to consider the advantages of the ACT.
Taking both tests is a lot of work. Unless your college of choice requires scores for both, you may hurt your scores by trying to manage both tests and the studying they take. On that note, it’s up to you (given the information you have) to choose the test you think you will perform best for, put all your energy and effort into it, and then get the best score you can.
Keep track of your progress (and your next steps) with the Ultimate College Decision Timeline from the IPFW Admissions team.