The SAT has long been regarded as one of the most important tests a student will take on the path to a higher education, creating a sense of urgency to prepare in a manner that results in the best possible outcome for the student. The SAT, along with the ACT, is used by colleges and universities in the admissions process, where standardized test scores are one of the more important determining factors in the decision to accept, reject or wait-list a student. With the stakes so high, it is not in the least bit surprising that students, parents and teachers are highly motivated to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible from the test-taking process by engaging in a detailed approach to preparation.
When one of the high-stakes tests used in college admissions is changed in even the slightest manner, of course there is going to be some level of worry that the alterations may have an unpredictable effect on student performance. Since the SAT recently made the decision to modify several aspects of its test, students and parents have naturally wondered whether it would be best to avoid the SAT in favor of the ACT, the “better-known quantity.” This response may not necessarily be ideal, and students should take the time to thoughtfully consider which test best suits them and therefore offers the greatest opportunity for success.
The Groza Learning Center provides students with assistance in preparing for a variety of standardized tests, and its co-founder, Scott Groza, recently weighed in on the changes made by the College Board to the SAT. These changes have raised some concerns among parents and students, many of whom are worried that it will be far more difficult to prepare for the test now that changes are being instituted. In discussing the changes the College Board has decided to implement, Groza addressed the understandable concerns expressed by students and parents while also detailing the strategies available to prepare for both the ACT and SAT.
Understanding the College Board’s Rationale
The College Board appears to have been motivated by a variety of factors in making the decision to alter the SAT for the first time in over a decade. Among the many factors at play, the following three seem to be the most significant:
• Achieve further alignment with the Common Core
• Improve the previously used test formula
• Recapture a share of the market from the ACT
As Groza noted, this rationale guided the College Board’s decision to make changes to the test, with the result being an SAT that is now more reminiscent of the ACT. The action of the College Board had something of an unintended consequence, however, as many parents and students expressed the completely understandable concern that taking the SAT in the first year in which these changes are implemented could have an adverse effect on student performance.
What Are the Most Common Concerns Among Parents and Students?
When these changes were announced by the College Board, many parents and students reacted in a similar fashion and considered opting for the ACT instead. This reaction was motivated mostly by a desire to eliminate the unknown from having an impact on a student’s performance on the SAT and, ultimately, on his or her ability to gain acceptance to a preferred college or university. While this reaction is entirely reasonable, the concern is largely unfounded. In fact, the College Board went to great lengths to ensure that the changes it made to the test are known on a widespread basis and are easily accessible to students, teachers and parents.
Resources and Information Regarding SAT Changes
…the quality of SAT test-taking materials has not been reduced in any way due to the actions of the College Board in making these changes
Understanding that there could be some concern regarding the changes made to the SAT, the College Board has released a 210-page text detailing the many changes and therefore functioning as a sort of blueprint for the new test. In addition to this heavily detailed document, the College Board has also released four distinct practice tests based on the changes it has made to the SAT, which means that this official information is already being utilized in the test preparation materials created by publishers specializing in this particular area.
Even though there may be a greater quantity of test-taking materials available for the ACT, it is important to note that the quality of SAT test-taking materials has not been reduced in any way due to the actions of the College Board in making these changes. With proper preparation using the right materials, any student taking the SAT should not experience an adverse effect as a result of the change to the SAT’s formula.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Perhaps the biggest point of emphasis made by Groza in discussing the changes to the SAT was the fact that the scoring system is still scaled according to the performance of peers. This is the case with both the SAT and ACT, so the concern over limited SAT preparation materials in not really a factor since all students have access to the same materials. With regard to scoring, the new SAT does not place students at a disadvantage, and it is also the case that taking the ACT does not create a scoring advantage.
Making the Decision: SAT or ACT?
Since it is entirely possible to adequately prepare for either the SAT or the ACT, students should consider taking the test with which they feel the greatest degree of comfort. According to Groza, the most important factor in ensuring student success is making a commitment to one test and focusing on becoming as prepared as possible through the use of self-preparation strategies, tutoring or test-preparation classes. Groza also noted that a student’s performance on either the ACT or SAT has much more to do with how the student utilizes the available resources rather than how many resources are available. This view underscores the notion that simply focusing on a comprehensive approach to test preparation is the most effective strategy for ensuring an optimal performance regardless of the test that is ultimately selected.