12 May 2015

The SAT Is changing. What should a rising junior do?

The question I get most often from parents nowadays is “What should my son/daughter do now that the SAT is changing?” Yes, if you’re a 10th grader right now (going into 11th grade in fall 2015), you’re not in a great position. The SAT is changing in the spring of 2016. That means that rising juniors have to think carefully about the options they have. Below, I’ll outline the 3 choices you have before you.

1) Take the new SAT. This is the option the College Board wants you to pick. The new SAT is coming out in March of 2016 and in the U.S., it is traditional for rising juniors to take the SAT the first time during the spring of their junior year and then retake it in the fall of their senior year. Thus, the March test date is perfect because that’s the time juniors should take it. However, for Thailand, the March test date isn’t available and that is problematic. I’ll talk about that later.

2) Your next option is to disregard the SAT in general and take the ACT. The ACT is currently the most popular test in the U.S., but it is not well-known internationally. It’s not changing next year and you can start preparing for it now. Only problem is that there are not too many experts on the ACT in Thailand.

3) Take the old SAT. This is the one everyone is familiar with right now. The biggest drawback is that your last opportunity to take it will be January 2016, which does not leave a lot of time.

So what should you do?

For the most part, the option you pick depends on the individual. But if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably looking for my recommendation. If you were living in the U.S., I would say take the new SAT. That is because you’ll have more time to prepare for it and then you can take it for the first time in March, a second time in May or June, and a final time (if needed) in the fall. However, because the March test date is not available in Thailand, you’re in a bad position with this option. You can prepare for the new SAT, but you won’t be able to take it until May. That is a long time to wait. Assuming you take the test twice, you’ll either take it back to back in May and June or you’ll take it in May and then go through another summer and take it a second time in the fall of 2016. And this is assuming you only take it twice!

With how competitive the college admissions environment has become, this does not leave you a lot of time. In between the SAT tests, you should also find time to take the SAT Subject tests so that your options can stay opened (not all universities need SAT Subject Tests). So overall, you’re dealing with delayed preparation and a short time period if you decide to take the new SAT.

Your other option is to take the old SAT. With this option, you’re also dealing with a short time period. Normally, I would have my students prepare for the SAT over the summer. Then they should take the SAT for the first time in October or November. After that, chill, go through the hard junior year, and then begin preparation again in December and take the January SAT after they have spent their winter breaks studying. And if needed, there is the spring to take it a third time. HOWEVER, that can’t happen now that the January test is the LAST test date for the old SAT. So again, there is a short period of time.

When it comes down to it, I recommend taking the old SAT. Yes, you don’t have a lot of time for it, but you can prepare for it now, as in THIS SUMMER, as in let’s get this over with because junior year is gonna suck and you want this summer to help prepare because next summer you have to deal with college application essays. Whew! That was a long sentence. But the point is this. Time is not your friend. So at least, be aware of that danger. If you take the new SAT and you suck at it, that’s it. You have no other options. Furthermore, you won’t really prepare for it until the school year starts, which is bad because junior year is hard. With the old SAT, you can at least use this summer to begin preparation for it (test in Oct or Nov) and use winter break as your last option to fully prepare for it (last test opportunity in Jan). And if worst comes to worst, prepare for the new SAT after January.

Finally, there is the ACT. I know the ACT is like the kid everyone ignores at school. You just don’t pay attention to him and if you decide to befriend him, it could be a mistake. However, I say that if you give him a chance, he might surprise you. That’s the thing with the ACT. Not many are familiar with it, but it is valued just as much as the SAT. Many have asked which is easier, but I don’t think that’s an easy or fair question to answer. It really depends on the student. We do offer the ACT at YPrep Academy, but it’s not popular enough for us to run regular classes yet. But do inquire about it if you’re interested. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I’m probably one of a few experts on the ACT in Thailand (I guess I do mean to say “I’m awesome!”). But like I said, it’s not a popular test so I can’t justify spending my time on it at the moment. I’m doing small tutorials for it right now, but regular classes is not an option…yet. If you decide to go the ACT route, make sure the teacher knows what he/she is talking about. I would recommend American teachers as they should be familiar with the test and not just tutors who know how to solve the math problems and teach grammar.

So there you have it! Those are my thoughts on the options you have in front of you. I know this is a long read, but my reasoning is laid out above. In short, I think you should take the old SAT if you live in Thailand. If my reasoning was unclear or if you have any more questions, feel free to contact us at YPrep Academy.