Standardized tests such as the SAT I Reasoning test are high-stakes events during the college preparation process. Thus, it’s best not to risk your chances of getting into the college of your choice by putting yourself at a disadvantage. The new SAT I test that will be released in March 2016 has so many new unknowns, especially in light of the information that the College Board, the makers of the SAT, has provided to the public. This article explains why you should not risk your success by becoming a guinea pig in the College Board’s new experiment.

How the College Board Wants the SAT to Work

The College Board wants the results of the test from across the nation to fit a bell-shaped curve. This means that most people will have a score that is in the middle, or considered average. A small portion will have high scores or low scores. In order to make the data behave in this way, the test makers vary the difficulty of each test, sometimes a bit easier and sometimes a bit harder – an experience that many students who have taken the SAT multiple times often report. The lack of data on how hard the new SAT is makes it hard to interpret that score is considered good. Indeed, the College Board will not release the results of the March 2016 test until after the May 2016 test, because they need time to adjust the material to their liking. How long should a student wait before taking the new test? It’s hard to say, since it’s expected that the new SAT might be made to be easier at first, so that as few people are scared away from it as possible. But given how the College Board adjusts its test to fit a bell curve, we don’t know when the test might suddenly get harder.

Test Prep Books and Companies Need Time to Adjust to the New SAT

No test preparation book publisher or teaching company can really prepare you for the new SAT, since there is no one knows how similar the actual new SAT will be the sample questions that were released. It will take months to years for a test preparation company to get a solid idea of what the new SAT will be like. The new SAT is supposed to move away from difficult vocabulary words, which it has been famous for containing. However, the sample material that was released still contains moderately advanced vocabulary, compared to the ACT test, which is the alternative test to the SAT I.  The preliminary information released about the new SAT also suggests that it will test students on English fluency, which is a significant departure from its previous standards.  

Alternative Options to Taking the SAT

As an alternative to the SAT I Reasoning test, students have the option of taking the ACT test, which is equally acceptable for college admissions. The ACT test will not be changing this year, or in the coming years – as far as the public knows. Test preparation books and courses are effective, because they know what actual previous tests were like. They also have actual data about how well their students do on real tests after studying from the preparation material. Thus, the test preparation books and companies will be able to prepare students for the ACT much more than they will for the new SAT I.

(This article first appeared on ThinkTank Learning and is reprinted here with permission from the author.)

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