SAT changes and Test Preparation Timelines

SAT changes and Test Preparation Timelines 

By now, everyone has heard— the SAT is changing, and members of the class of 2017 get to be the first to take the new version.  We’ve gotten more and earlier tutoring inquiries from sophomore families than ever before— Should we prepare for the old SAT now?  Should we wait until next spring, when there are more materials and information available?  Should we skip the SAT altogether and focus on ACT? Should we take the old and new SAT? I thought it would be useful to offer some thoughts on how the pending changes to the SAT affect students’ test-prep timelines.

First, some brief background on when the SAT changes.  March 2016 will be the first offering of the new SAT (near the end of junior year for the class of 2017).  The current format of the SAT will still be offered in October, November, and December 2015 and January 2016.  The PSAT will also change in format in conjunction with the SAT, and the 2015 PSAT in October will be the first “new” PSAT given.  There are no pending changes to the ACT through 2016.  There is one crucial takeaway from this— students preparing for the current form of the SAT have an absolute deadline of January 2016 to finish their SAT prep.  There are no more chances to take the test in its current form after one year from now.

For previous classes, Thirty-Six has recommended that rising juniors begin their test prep over the summer, leading to fall ACTs and/or spring SATs.  This year, we’re moving things forward.  It is now our recommendation that, unless ACT is absolutely, unequivocally the better choice between the two tests for a student, students begin their prep in late winter/early spring of sophomore year

Here’s our reasoning— January is the last offering of the current form of the SAT, which we have years of experience tutoring.  If you plan to prepare for this test, you must be done by January.  We will learn the format of the new SAT and adapt our methods, but we’re not interesting in using our students as “guinea pigs” for the test’s first offering.  Because SAT prep is a lengthy process, SAT students in the sophomore class should begin prepping NOW.  There is almost exactly one year left in the life of this form of the SAT.

If the path forward— ACT vs. SAT— isn’t immediately clear, all the more reason to begin prep earlier than our initial June recommendation.  We will tend to recommend that students for whom this decision isn’t clear should tend towards ACT to avoid the early and artificial deadline of January to finish their test prep, but, should ACT prep not work out as planned once a student begins, we need time to adjust, switch to SAT, and, again, finish by January.

For students who are clear ACT candidates and don’t plan to do any SAT prep, the timeline doesn’t necessarily need to change. That being said, a student’s prep can lead to new insights or information as it progresses, and if there’s any chance of needing to prepare for the SAT, we highly recommend starting early.

The bottom line: at very least, students who plan to work with us and are current sophomores should try to begin their test-prep processes ASAP by taking diagnostic tests and/or meeting with a tutor to come up with a plan (primarily regarding SAT vs. ACT).