The SAT has undergone a significant redesign and will look very different for students in the class of 2017 and beyond. Thirty-Six Education, is advising juniors and sophomores not to take the new SAT, and focus on the ACT instead, for the following reasons.
- Limited amount of prep materials
The College Board has famously partnered with Khan Academy to provide free preparatory materials for the new SAT, but in all there’s a very limited amount of practice tests and other preparatory material available to students. As of now, most of the major developers of SAT/ACT curriculum have produced prep material for the new test, but all of it is based on an educated guess as to the test’s construction and format. As the test is given and refined, more actual testing material will be made available that will allow more companies to create more authentic original curriculum based on the test. The only official materials are available through College Board (4 full-length SATs, 1 full-length PSAT, both with answer keys but not scoring scales). Students can correct their practice tests but won’t have any idea what scaled score they would’ve achieved based on the results.
- New methods by classes and tutors
We expect that tutoring companies and their tutors will develop effective methods for teaching the SAT, but it’s unavoidable that this year’s junior class will be the first to use any new teaching methods and materials produced by these companies. Like the College Board will have to do with the construction of the test, tutoring companies will have to refine their methods as they use them and see what works best. Students may find more variability in their SAT-prep results this year than they would have in previous years or will in future years.
- Rollout and scaling of new SAT
The College Board has announced that the scores from the March 5 SAT won’t be released until after the May 7 SAT is administered. Because the SAT is scaled after the test is administered in order to achieve a normal distribution, and because they will have an extremely small sample size after just one administration of the test, the College Board will have to wait until a second test is administered to have sufficient data to create their scale. Functionally, this will have two effects. First, students should expect more variability in scores during the first few iterations of the test due to the relatively small sample size of SAT and the fact that the test’s scaling will evolve as it is administered more times. Second, students will have to wait until after the March test’s administration to receive feedback on their scores, feedback which could guide students’ prep over the subsequent months until the May and June administrations of the SAT. Finally, the possibility of logistical difficulties is unavoidable with a redesign of this scale.
The change in test format in March presents additional problems for current juniors– the first test isn’t available until March, so, when coupled with the delay in scores being released, students’ test-prep processes will take longer to finish. I’d expect that many students in the class of 2017 won’t finish SAT prep until the fall of senior year for this reason. The ACT, on the other hand, isn’t changing format and is offered throughout the year. Particularly for recruited athletes, getting quality test scores as early as possible is paramount, adding a further disadvantage to prep for the new SAT.
Above all, we advise students to avoid the uncertainty around the SAT’s new rollout and the logistical problems we foresee. The ACT is a much better option for most students in the class of 2017.
By Bryan Bibler, CEO and Co-Founder of Thirty-Six Education
Thirty-Six Education is a test preparation company that provides specialized tutoring to students all over the world. One-on-one online instruction is facilitated by the company’s proprietary whiteboard program and iOS app. Thirty-Six Anywhere is a state-of-the-art solution for students who need top-notch tutoring and flexibility.