Pros and Cons of the "New" August 2017 SAT

Stefanie Mallia of Ivy Educational Services Credits: Ivy Educational Services

For the first time in several decades, the College Board will offer a summer SAT in August of 2017 while eliminating the January test date (beginning with 2018). When this was announced nearly a year ago, there was much speculation: Who will benefit from this new test date? Why is the College Board doing this? Is it more strategic to take this test as a rising junior or should students wait?

There are no simple answers to these questions, but they do raise some interesting points. Ivy Ed continues to take a calm testing approach: take the test when you are ready for it and don’t take it more times than you need to. Our philosophy is that kids should not necessarily spend several Saturdays testing when they could spend that time reading good books, engaging in community service, or spending time with family and friends. We also believe that maturity (and time on Earth) can play a role in increased scores.

Why should a student take the test in August? Schools begin at the end of August or beginning of September, so they’re not in full swing yet. This means that some students may be able to get the test out of the way so test prep doesn’t overlap or interfere with regular schoolwork. Preparing for a standardized test is a different way of learning, so we do like the idea that students can be “taught for the test” over the summer, and then switch gears come the start of the school year for more academic learning.  

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Who should take the test in August?

  • Students who prep over the summer and don’t want to lose their momentum
  • Students who have completed Algebra II
  • Students who scored high on the sophomore PSAT (Some students who should wait until later in the school year.) 

The SAT now contains math from pre-calculus/trigonometry so students really need to have Algebra II under their belts before sitting for it (or for the ACT, for that matter).  Students who are taking Algebra II junior year may benefit from waiting until March to take the SAT since they will have covered a full ​semester more of math material. There are several more administrations of the SAT even after March (it’s offered in May or June) and realistically students can even take the test during the beginning of senior year.

All schools accept October scores, even for Early Decision/Early Action deadlines, so there is no rush.  We recommend that students are prepared for the test when they take it; it does no good to get a low score and possibly lose confidence by rushing into any administration.

Which test should I take -- ACT or SAT?

Ah, there’s the rub. While the material covered on both the SAT and ACT overlaps more than ever, there are differences in strategies and question types on each test.

  • The SAT has grid-in questions as part of the math sections; the ACT is solely multiple choice.
  • The SAT has a no-calculator section; the ACT allows a calculator for the whole math portion.
  • ​There is no science section on the SAT, but there are science-like questions embedded in the verbal sections. The ACT has a science section.​ 

We offer Diagnostic Practice ACTs beginning in the spring (please see dates here) so we can help families choose which test is better suited for their children.  We also offer free 20-minute PSAT evaluations during which we compare the tests with students’ strengths and weaknesses to figure out which one is a better match.

Ivy Education now offers a new summer SAT course scheduled with this test in mind. We are here to offer test prep guidance as well as college counseling.  Please call our office at 908-322-0533 to arrange for a free 20-minute PSAT consultation to see if the August test date is appropriate for your child.

Editor's Note: Ivy Ed is an advertiser of TAPintoSPF. 

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