Both tests are changing this year. Which one should you take?
THE SHORT ANSWER: If you are taking the test in Fall 2015, take either test. If you are taking the test in Spring 2016, take the ACT.
HERE'S WHY: The basic thinking is that the new ACT is barely changing while the redesigned SAT is a gamble. The new SAT material is still being tested and written. No one yet knows how the scoring will work (though we may have some clues later this summer). The scores might be inflated; they might be deflated. For a test this important to your application process, stick with the exam that’s been heavily tested and that test prep experts know inside and out.
The key is to first decide when you will be ready to test. Some students are busy in spring with a sport and thus need to test in the fall. Some students don’t have the math skills to test this fall and thus need to wait. Test when you will do your best and pick the test from there.
EXCEPTIONS: As always, though, there are a couple exceptions to the rule.
- First, be sure that you check with the colleges you plan to apply to. In almost all cases, the Class of 2017 can submit either old or new SAT scores. For younger students (Class of 2018) some colleges have said they will take either old or new scores, a small number have said that they will only take new SAT scores, while others are still undecided. Check with your individual colleges or talk to your college counselor. Also note, these policies are subject to change.
- Another exception applies to students with accommodations for a learning difference. Securing accommodations is different for each test. You may get extra time on both tests. You may only get extra time on the SAT but not the ACT, or vice versa. Having the extra time you need to show your talents will affect your decision. The key take away: apply as early as possible for your accommodation to both tests. Once you have the decisions from the SAT and ACT boards, you can make an educated decision that’s right for you.
REGISTERING: If you do decide you are ready to test this fall and that you want to take the current SAT, plan ahead. Almost everyone takes the SAT at least twice and sometimes three times. Plan to finish your last attempt in December, not January when the last current SAT is given. Why? Things go wrong on test day. You might wake up with the flu. There might be a fire alarm during the test. The College Board might make a mistake on the exam as they did in June. In case something goes wrong during your last attempt in December, at least you’ll still have January to fall back on.
Keep in mind there may be a large surge of students registering for the SAT this fall. The same is true for the ACT in spring. As soon as you know the dates you plan to take the tests, get online and register!
Register for the SAT here: https://sat.collegeboard.org/register
Register for the ACT here: http://www.actstudent.org/regist/