redesigned SAT picThe new SAT is a reality. Since the first administration will be 6 weeks from Saturday, I believe now is the time to answer the questions I have been getting over the past several months as well as address some of the myths and rumors. (If I missed your question, please call or email me and I will be more than happy to respond!)

Since the test is so new, nobody really knows what it’s about?

Those of us who do test prep have been aware of the new format for some time. Breakthrough Test Prep has created workbooks and materials representative of the new format. These materials are designed to strategically reinforce the skills tested. The College Board has had four sample tests available on their site for months.

Also, since nearly all high school students – grades 9-11 – took the PSAT this past October, they actually have experienced the new SAT (minus the essay).

The new SAT is harder than the ACT?

A more correct statement would be the FORMER SAT was more challenging for many students as it demanded more nuanced critical reading, thinking and problem solving. The NEW SAT has many more similarities to the ACT in that the questions tend to be a bit more direct though still somewhat nuanced. Both have only four choice options (except for the ACT math with five), and there is no longer a penalty of 1/4 point for an incorrect answer.

That said, I believe the pluses and minuses for each balance out more, yet since there are still distinct differences, I advise students to take our 60 Second ACT vs. SAT AssessmentTM. Knowing the results from this Assessment, will allow your teen to move more confidently to prepare for the better test  – one that fits learning style, level, and personality.

Isn’t the timing the same for both exams as they are now more similar in total length?

The new SAT is allowing a lot more time per section relative to the ACT:

  • Reading: 43% more time
  • Writing and Language: 33% more time
  • Math without calculator: 40% more time*
  • Math with calculator: 49% more time*

*The ACT allows calculator use for the entire math section; however, the no-calculator section does not require complicated calculations. In fact, most of the questions on both exams can be done without a calculator.

Since the SAT is so new, won’t most colleges consider the ACT score over an SAT score?

This is the 5th change I have experienced in my many years of doing test preparation. Those students who took the first administration of those redesigned SAT’s all were able to use those scores for college admission.

How will my teen know whether to retake in May since the scores for the March exam are not scheduled to be released until May?

As we work with students, we are able to project a probable SAT (or ACT) score. We also have a sense of their mindset. That said, we are then able to recommend that the student retake in May or wait until June or even October regardless of whether we have the actual scores in hand.

Because the SAT does not have a Science section as does the ACT, doesn’t that mean that students who are not strong in science should clearly opt to take the new SAT?

Not really. The Science section on the ACT is not as much testing a student’s knowledge of science as it is testing the student’s ability to interpret charts and graphs and analyze experimental design. (NOTE: The SAT has 3-4 charts and graphs dispersed through the reading and Writing/language sections, and a few more in the math sections.)

The essay on the ACT is easier as the topics relate more to ‘student’ issues?

The ACT essay changed during last September’s administration (and has always been optional). It is now 40 minutes. The new SAT essay is also optional and 50 minutes in length. The student issue prompt is out, and both essay prompts demand more analysis and support rather than persuasion – more similar to AP Lang essays. Since the essays on both exams are now optional, check the schools your teen is interested in to see if it’s required. (As of this writing, only about 13% of the more selective schools are asking for the new SAT essay.)

I hope this answers your questions and clears up any rumors you may have heard. Ultimately, it’s all about your teen taking the exam that’s most appropriate – suited to learning style, level and personality. Here’s the link to the assessment which is the first place to start in deciding on the better exam. There are other variables to consider as well which I can share with you during your Test Prep Strategy Session.

Mark your Calendars! 

On February 8, from 7:00-8:30 at the Washington Waldorf School, I have been invited to give a talk with clinical psychologist, Dr. Linda McGhee. This will be a fascinating evening with a particular focus on how parents can cope with the often  daunting process of creating a path from high school to college. Attendance is FREE but space is limited. Please call, 301.299.4380 or email me, harriet@breakthroughtestprep.com to reserve your admission to this highly informative seminar!

Understanding the SAT/ACT and Surviving the College Application Process to Best Support YOUR Teen 

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