Current 10th grade students are caught in the switch from the current SAT to the redesigned SAT.
They will have to take the redesigned PSAT in October; the redesigned SAT will start in March, 2016. The old (current) form of the SAT will be offered for the last time in January, 2016.
There’s a lot of unnecessary anxiety around the change. No one needs worry. All we need to do is to plan ahead carefully and to continue watching the process develop vigilantly.
There seem to be three choices for current sophomores: take their chances with the redesigned SAT (first administered March, 2016), take the current SAT in January (the last time it will be offered) or take the ACT.
The first example of the redesigned PSAT was just released this week. So far, the redesigned PSAT doesn’t seem more difficult than the old version, at least for reading and writing. However, there may be problems with administering that PSAT and with administering the redesigned SAT: the last time there was a major SAT revision, the first new tests contained major problems in the questions and in the scoring.
Some experts are recommending that next year’s juniors take the old test in January. Students who are excellent with vocabulary have an advantage on the old SAT; vocabulary will be minimized in the redesigned test. The difficulty with taking the old test in January is that most juniors need the academic development they get from January to May to achieve their best scores.
There is also a difficulty for students who hope get at a scholarship based on the PSAT (such as the National Merit). They will have to prepare for the redesigned PSAT even though there are few authentic prep materials available.
- Current 10th grade students should take a home diagnostic old SAT and a home diagnostic ACT now. If the old SAT score is high enough that the student has a chance of being ready in January, s/he starts prepping now for the old SAT given in January. If the ACT looks equal or better, she can prep for the ACT starting this spring. Much prep for the ACT is also prep for the redesigned SAT since the redesigned SAT is similar in many ways to the ACT)
- They should use the resdesigned PSAT in October to plan. If there aren’t significant problems in administering and scoring the PSAT, then the administration of the SAT may be smooth also. Students will also be able to use the PSAT to see how they will fare on the new SAT. If they score over well (and if the administration of the test goes well), they can aim to take both the redesigned SAT and the ACT in the spring. Most students now take both anyway.
- If students seem to be a candidates for the PSAT-based scholarships, they should start now to prep for the redesigned PSAT. I have always recommended starting in March to any student who has a possibility of getting a PSAT-based scholarship. I have started to prepare materials for my students; I’m sure other prep materials will come out in the spring. After the PSAT, they students could then take the redesigned SAT and the ACT in the spring.
Current 10th grade students will have to start a bit sooner than 10th grade students from other years: they’ll need more diagnostic testing and probably earlier test prep. However, after a couple of diagnostic tests that they do at home this spring, they can have sensible, simple, effective SAT test preparation plans.