The College Board is making a long overdue change to the SAT testing schedule. While the SAT is offered seven times a year, after the June exam, there isn’t another SAT until October. Beginning in 2017, the College Board will now offer the SAT at the end of August. There won’t be eight SATs a year; the addition of the August SAT will also coincide with the removal of the January SAT. All in all, this is a big win for students as there are significant benefits (read below) for students having an SAT during the summer. And the January SAT will not be missed (it coincides with many schools’ midterms).
It’s never completely clear what motivates the College Board’s decisions. While we would like to believe they act in the students’ best interests, I believe the change in the SAT schedule is actually a shrewd business move. The College Board’s rival, the ACT, offers an exam in mid September which makes it the first college admissions test of the fall. By offering an SAT in August, the College Board now has an earlier exam than the ACT which should become more popular as I expect many students would be more eager to take an exam before the school year (August SAT) than after the start of the year (September ACT). Furthermore, the January SAT is right in the middle of the snow season in many part of the country. In fact, rescheduling the recent snowed out January SAT has proved to be a nightmare for the College Board so by eliminating the January exam, the College Board has also eliminated a huge risk of future headaches.
The Benefits of a new summer SAT:
1) An important opportunity for early admissions: Currently, the October and November SAT exams are the two SATs in the fall that allow students to receive scores before the regular college admissions deadline, but only the October SAT is early enough to receive scores by the early admission deadline. With the addition of an August SAT exam, there will now be two chances for students to receive scores before the early admission application deadline – the August and October exams.
2) More evenly spread SAT opportunities throughout the year: Right now there is a 4 month gap between the June and October SAT exams. With the addition of the August SAT (and the removal of the January SAT), the longest time during the year without an SAT will be the 3 month period between the December and March SAT exams. This might not seem like a huge deal, but after a student receives disappointing scores from an exam, the question of when is the next opportunity becomes very important. With the next testing opportunity even closer (on average), students will benefit.
3) For many, the summer is an ideal time to prepare: Junior year is a very busy time. In addition to focusing on maintaing high grades in challenging courses and staying committed to sports and other extracurricular activities, the junior year also offers the pleasures of Driver’s Education and the SATs. Many families reach out to me expressing an interest in preparing for the SAT over the summer, but without a summer SAT exam and with the earliest fall SAT in October, most of the preparation still needs to be done after the start of the school year. However, with the new August SAT, students can actually do meaningful preparation throughout the summer.