In a March interview for Business Insider, Anthony Green, standardized test tutor to the 1%, advises that no one take the newly redesigned SAT exams when they first appear in March, May, or June 2016. And although he makes some salient points, my over ten years of experience as a New York-based SAT tutor for a more rounded economic bracket leads me to the opposite conclusion. There is no reason not to sit for the inaugural roll-out.
Yes, as Green points out, each redesign is a tacit acknowledgement that the previous iteration had significant shortcomings. The College Board has regularly made format changes in an effort to improve the exam, and surely the SAT will be redesigned again in the future. Based on the past and scheduled redesigns in 1994, 2005, and 2016, I would guess the next change will be in 2027. (See what I did there? That’s a number pattern.) Each of these changes brings with it a reasonable amount of uncertainty for test-takers and those of us who prepare those test-takers. However, I disagree with Green that concern over grading mishaps on the early exams should discourage students from being a part of the College Board’s “new experiment.”
When the College Board switched to the current version of the SAT in March of 2005, my students were extremely well prepared for what they encountered. They did not “walk into the new version blind,” as Green fears. Five months prior to the new SAT exam, in early October of 2004, the College Board released The Official SAT Study Guide: For the New SAT. This book contained eight full-length practice exams which gave me and my students ample opportunity to get ready. I personally took the SAT in March, May, and June of 2005, as did all of my students. We experienced no surprises on those three exams, and those “guinea pig” students saw the same score increases as those before the exam change. There were no scoring mishaps or nightmares.
In fact, it wasn’t until October 2005 that over 4,400 test-takers’ answer keys were scored incorrectly – and Green has no qualms about his students trying the new exam in October 2016. Importantly, even that scoring fiasco was unrelated to the new version of the SAT. And the College Board has since become hyper-vigilant, as it was forced to pay out over $3 million in settlements as a result of the class-action lawsuit that followed.
Even if students couldn’t get their hands on The Official Study Guide for the Redesigned SAT – 2016 until this October, I am certain they would still be in good shape heading into the March 2016 SAT. However, I am excited to say that the copy I have already pre-ordered has a June 30th, 2015 release date. Assuming the book arrives as advertised, students will be able to access the preparation materials for the redesigned exam about three months earlier than they could for the last change eleven years ago. I favor the validity and consistency of College Board materials more than Green seems to, which is simply a personal preference, but other publishers are rising to the challenge of advance preparation as well. For example, the New SAT Guide- First Edition by Ivy Global was delivered to early adopters months ago. While this thick text (almost 1,000 pages) on the redesigned SAT only has two practice exams, it still offers quite enough to begin getting ready.
On one point Green and I completely agree: Regrettably, the SAT does segregate students based on arbitrary abilities. Anyone who has had any experience with the exam (in its current or past iterations) quickly realizes that the skills measured on the SAT do not match the type of thinking required to succeed in high school, college, or real-world job experiences (unless you aspire to become an SAT teacher, naturally). But with any version of the SAT, mastery is a matter of training and practice. Success is attainable with the right coaching, attitude, and study habits. Naturally, it’s disappointing and frustrating when a tutor has devoted time and resources to preparing for a version of an exam now being phased out. However, a good tutor absorbs the bulk of the transitional stress and prep. Students, in the hands of the right tutor, will feel ready regardless of the exam’s format. I know from experience that the ability to reason in a pressurized environment is the most crucial weapon in an SAT-taker’s arsenal, and that ability works regardless of how the exam changes.
The families that I have worked with over the years have learned that when they hire me as their SAT instructor, my professional advice is not limited to how to maximize their scores on each specific question type in the SAT and ACT exams. I help them map out a test-taking plan that works for them. I couldn’t imagine telling members of the class of 2017 to avoid the SAT for half a year. March, May, and June are prime opportunities for students to sit for an SAT exam, and my students will be completely prepared for the very first redesign beginning next March.