A few expert answers on the new SAT

SATIf you have a high school student — especially a junior — then you should know that the College Board is rolling out a brand new SAT in March.

The new SAT will not only have a different grading scale — a total of 1600 as opposed to the current 2400 scale — the test itself will be completely different and the essay will be optional.

The reading section of the new test will have passages from literature, history, economics and science and won't include esoteric vocabulary, according to the College Board website. The writing and language section asks students to edit and improve passages that include errors. And the math portion of the test will focus on three main areas: problem solving and data analysis, linear equations and systems, and complex equations and manipulation. Also new, the test will not penalize for incorrect answers.

The College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to offer free personalized practice tests online. This is an attempt to equal the playing field between students who can afford to take SAT prep classes and those who can't.

“It is supposed to be harder and it will be longer, even without the optional essay,” explains Cori Dykman of Annapolis College Consulting. “The new test is aligning itself totally with the new Common Core — higher-level thinking, using command of evidence, analyzing a source, and analysis in science and social studies. It is also purported to have more difficult reading sections which refer to our founding documents and global conversations.”

Many juniors are left wondering whether they should take the old SAT this winter or wait for the new one in the spring. Here are some factors to take into consideration from Dykman and Sylvia Cason, a counselor at Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg.

  • If you have done well on the PSAT in the past, Dykman recommends juniors take the old SAT. The last one will be administered on Jan. 23.
  • Cason, on the other hand, advises juniors to wait until March to take only the new SAT. “If juniors wait to take the test, they will still have at least three or four more opportunities to test before they are required to submit their scores to colleges,” she says.
  • At least one college, Virginia Tech, has said it will not accept the old SAT after this year. More may follow suit, Dykman says.
  • Keep in mind that it is unlikely math and verbal scores from the old SAT and new SAT can be super scored or combined to create a best possible total.
  • Dykman also warns that test prep companies will be sending their tutors to take the test to gain experience, meaning the competition will be with experts from all over the world. “Even if that only accounts for 5 percent of [those] taking it, it will skew the results in a way I consider to be unfair,” she says.
  • The new test will also take three weeks longer to issue results, Dykman says. That means students won't get their scores for six to eight weeks after the test.

By Betsy Stein

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