The SAT is changing in 2016. These will be the first major changes to the SAT since March of 2005, and it seems that these changes will dwarf those earlier ones both in import and in consequence. However, will these changes have the desired effects? Further, will these changes stem the trend of test takers baling from the SAT and opting instead for the ACT?
Will the changes to the SAT have the desired effect? Doubtful. If anything, it seems that the test will become more complicated and difficult. Further, analysis of the questions and answers will soon reveal predictable and coachable patterns to savvy test preparation experts.
The College Board’s ace in the hole designed to overcome the anxiety these changes will certainly cause and to avoid a mass exodus to the ACT is Khan Academy. Take that card out of their hand and ACT easily trumps the new SAT. However, I expect ACT to follow suit and announce free prep, perhaps also through Khan Academy or through its own portal.
Will test prep on Khan Academy change the test preparation landscape? We hope so! We hope that the era of “anyone with a Barrons book is a test prep expert” will soon fade into oblivion, and will be replaced by the era of the test prep professional.
So, perhaps the SAT emerges as the big loser here, due to the mass confusion and fear these changes will wrought. Ironically, ACT likely emerges as the friendlier, more familiar option and the big winner simply by being a big rock in a hurricane.
The College Board will certainly counter, as the ACT has done, by moving into the academic evaluations business, but PARCC and Smarter Balanced (and ACT) already have a major head start in that arena.
For international students, there is little question that ACT now becomes a far superior option to the new SAT. This is true not only because of the tests’ relative structures but because some content of the new SAT will focus on America’s most important documents, of which native-born Americans have profound knowledge. This may prove to be a major international misplay by the College Board—to not recognize the changing demographic of the American landscape and to place at a competitive disadvantage more than 100,000 international students who take the SAT every year in hopes of coming to America for a better life and to attend its world-leading institutions of higher learning. For these students either ACT or TOEFL will take on greater significance, pitting familiar rivals (ACT and ETS) against each other once again.
So, while we can argue the virtues or merits of the content of the new SAT, there is also a discussion to be had regarding the business savvy that these changes represent. Chyten, for one, will welcome in the era of the New SAT with open arms. We have been preparing for this moment for the past ten years, as we have long believed that ACT is a better test for many.