Don’t Prep for the New, Digital SAT

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By David Blobaum of Summit Prep (NJ)

The current version of the paper-based SAT will only be offered four more times, in August, October, November, and December of 2023. The next SAT, in March of 2024, will be the new, digital SAT. So, should students prepare for the current SAT, the ACT, and/or the new SAT?

A Short, Relevant History of Redesigned SATs

Before we talk about the new SAT, however, we have to cover some relevant background. In March of 2016, the SAT changed to its current format and the quality of the test plummeted. The content became less predictable, and the curves were occasionally brutal. On the June 2018 SAT, for example, one wrong math question brought students’ scores down 50 points from an 800 to a 750.

Since 2016, we have prepped most students for the ACT: comparatively, it’s a higher quality test, the curves are much more predictable and forgiving (especially at the high end of the scale), students can delete ACT scores so they can take the real tests as the best possible practice tests and incrementally work their score up, and the Common App adjusted its score reporting process so that most schools functionally superscore ACT results.

In short, the ACT became (relative to the current SAT from 2016) the better test for most students. The SAT remained the better option for some students, and we have prepared those students for the SAT accordingly.

The New, Digital Adaptive SAT

The new SAT looks very appealing: it takes two hours, 14 minutes, instead of the current three hours, and the content appears to be of higher quality than the current SAT. The new SAT is also adaptive: students who do well on the first Verbal section will get a harder second Verbal section. For students who do not do as well, they will move to an easier second section. The same goes for the Math sections. The adaptive nature of the test gets students to their score range faster and with fewer questions.

These are all good things… but students still shouldn’t prep for the new SAT — at least not yet. Here are the reasons why:

  • There are only 4 official practice tests currently available from College Board. Many students will run out of authentic practice tests before reaching their goal — and, by far, the best practice materials are from College Board. Third-party content can be helpful, but it will never fully simulate the College Board practice tests. No prep companies will ever invest the millions of dollars to make an accurate, adaptive test that gives students accurate scores.
  • The last time the SAT changed in 2016, it was a mess for the first two years as the College Board scrambled to make consistent curves and consistent content. Even if a student does amazingly well on the 4 official practice tests, there is a significant risk that the real tests will be scaled and scored differently when the digital adaptive SAT officially launches in March of 2024.
  • The new SAT has a terrible calendar for testing: the first test dates are March, May, and June of 2024. The May test coincides with AP exams, and the June test prep timeline overlaps with final exams in school. Many students will need to retake the new SAT in August of 2024.

In summary, the new SAT looks awesome but it’s still a closed pot, and we will have to see what awaits us once it is uncovered in March of 2024. Until then, students have two better options.

  • The current SAT: if they are better suited for this test and can be nearly certain they can reach their score goal by December of this year.
  • The ACT: the best option for the vast majority of students this coming school year because it is known, unchanged, and allows students dramatically more time and testing opportunities to reach their score goal.

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