I can't believe my bad luck, just when I am ready to take the SAT, a new one comes out. Should I take the new SAT in March or the ACT? I am more suited to the SAT, I think. But everyone says you can't take a new test that no one has seen before.

Answers

Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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When you say you are more suited to the SAT, I wonder if you have seen the changes the SAT has made. It really looks like the ACT now, incorporating science into the readings, setting up its writing section the same way, and making the essay optional. I have been suggesting students take the ACT since that test seems more stable, but the June SAT might be a good option for you. You are not alone in having anxiety about the big changes to the test, but now it seems taking either and prepping for either will affect your performance on either test because they are so much more similar.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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I completely agree with Nedda. Teachers and guidance counselors at the high school where I teach have offered students the same advice: if unsure whether to take the new SAT or ACT, and if your school offers you the option, go with the ACT. Why? Because it is known, practiced, and studied... the new SAT still needs time to become known, practiced, and studied.

Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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So I don't disagree - this is kind of bad luck. But it's hardly something that will harm you. When I think of really bad luck I think of getting stranded at an airport for two days in a blizzard, or something awful like a freak accident. This doesn't come close. You will be ok, and better yet - you have a solid alternative to the new SAT; you can take the ACT. Or go test-optional.

As a rule of thumb, it's never a good idea to purchase the new model on something - this goes for cars, washing machines, other major appliances- and well - the SAT too. It's best to wait a year or so until the kinks are worked out. This new version of the SAT for March 2016 is supposed to be a much improved - and maybe even preferred - test. But it's too early to know. The colleges themselves are uncertain of how it will play it. Students like you should be too.

A primary concern is how well students will do on this test. The new SAT is somewhat incalculable because it's so unknown. That's a problem. Think about it this way. If your physics teacher gives a mid-term and the whole class bombs on it - it's likely the test (or test-writer) was to blame. Or the students were poorly prepared (which begs the questions, why?). Either way, the test becomes a questionable or useless indicator of student performance. This can happen with any new standardized exam. It's not so much an issue of everyone bombing on it, but student scores varying so widely because of the new format, and importantly the colleges - the end users of this product when you think about it - not knowing how to effectively evaluate those funky new scores. Further, because this is a spankin new test, you won't be able to source advance information and study guide materials to adequately prep for it. Those materials won't be developed until after this very first, inaugural test in March when hundreds of teachers from all the different test-prep companies will sit down and take the exam in hopes of getting better acquainted with the new content and format.

Because of this, I suggest you avoid this first SAT in March and take the ACT instead. If you hear good things about the SAT after this first test date, take the SAT in the fall of 2016 and submit whichever of your scores are higher - the ACT or SAT. Both are now equally respected among all colleges - including the Ivies.

There are some fundamental differences between the SAT and ACT to note. This may make you more inclined to take a chance on the new SAT format. The ACT has 3 times as many geometry questions on it as the SAT. If you hate geometry, the new SAT may be better for you. Likewise, the ACT features a science section. There is no science on the SAT. If you want to avoid anything science, avoid the ACT. Finally, the new SAT is presumably less time pressured. It's designed to give you more time to adequately get to every question on the test. By comparison, the ACT might feel a bit more like a mad dash to finish all the questions. But the new SAT questions are apparently harder on this new exam - so more time, but more challenging - a tricky trade-off. Both tests still give you the option of a version with the essay.

Of course, you always have the option of applying to a test-optional college like Wake Forest or GW. Many colleges have grown weary of this ever changing testing landscape. Many colleges think ALL of these exams are seriously flawed. For information on which colleges allow you to submit an application sans test scores, go to www.fairtest.comsfor a complete list.

Whether you take the SAT the ACT or go radical and say, "no to the test," here's what's fair. You have choices, and you have test prep.

Best of luck!

Dr. Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Currently Program Director at Aviation Academy, Co-Author of Awakening Your STEM School

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There are two factors to consider. First, what do you feel most comfortable with testing? While preparing, do you have all of the necessary prep materials needed for the test.

Second, do the colleges you are applying to require the SAT or ACT? If there is no preference, see which one has a better chance of you getting a higher score.

I would also recommend that you check the differences between the new SAT vs the ACT. I found this site to be helpful in seeing more clarity in them.

Don't think of it as a bad thing, just do a little research and you will come to the conclusion which one is better for you.

Good luck!

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