To be very fair, this isn't College Board's fault. The dizzying din that is taking attention away from the accomplishments of this year's seniors isn't coming from the SAT but from those who are speculating about the new version of the SAT, set to debut in the spring of 2016.
"Will it be harder?"
"Will it be easier?"
"It's going to be just like the ACT."
"Kids shouldn't take it next year."
This last perspective comes from those who are anticipating that the new SAT will follow in the footsteps of the Edsel, New Coke, or nearly every Jennifer Lopez film. "We don't know what it's going to be like," they argue, "so wait until the fall of senior year to take it. That gives College Board the summer to work out the kinks from the first test administrations."
Standardized testing makes me as Gigli as the next person, but I can't believe people are getting nervous about an exam that's going to be rolled out next month but not given until next year. Consider this:
- After May 1 Khan Academy will have more test-prep material for the new SAT than the average student could hope for. Not only is this material free, but it's going to be supplied to Khan Academy by College Board. This won't be somebody's best guess about what might be on the test; these are samples written by the company that's making the test. This kind of partnership has never happened before.
- Since the "P" in "PSAT" still stands for "preliminary," students will get a real feel for the shape and rhythm of the content and structure of the SAT by taking the PSAT this October. In addition, students will be able to plug their PSAT results into Khan Academy and get a detailed guide of the material they need to study to maximize their score on the new SAT -- and they'll have two months to study before the test rolls out next March.
- Counselors are working overtime (as always) to make sure students know the importance of taking both the SAT and ACT next year. Counselors always tell students to take both tests (here's why), but that's especially important next year. If the SAT really is the train wreck some think it will be, students will still have a sturdy set of ACT scores to share with colleges. If the new SAT turns out to be a dream come true, students can go far on those better scores instead -- but only if they take the test.
- Fall of senior year may be too late to take the new SAT for the first time. More colleges are offering incentives for early applications (like late September), and getting a great SAT score in October won't help a student meet those deadlines. With these schools, students could face more competition for fewer seats come November -- or, in some cases, lose scholarships offered only to early applicants.
- Counselors and students aren't the only ones hoping the new SAT is a hit. College Board knows a bad start will cost them market share and money; more importantly, they know it will frustrate and disappoint the students they are hoping to better serve with a more accessible test. That last point alone will not sit well with counselors -- and if you think we're just a nice bunch of folks in touch with our feelings, you haven't crossed one of us.
College Board is leaving little to chance with the new SAT. Students should do the same with the testing portion of their college applications. Take the test.