Big Changes This Year In College Entrance Exams

Attention juniors (and their parents)!  Here we go with everyone’s favorite topic of conversation … testing.

2016 brings with it the first major college entrance testing change in many years. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The current SAT has been revamped and the last sitting for that test will be in January. The first sitting for the new SAT will be in March.
  • Scores for PSATs (your student probably took these in October) will be available online by December 22nd.  This is later than usual, which makes it a bit harder to plan ahead.
  • There is a new partnership between College Board and Khan Academy for free online SAT test prep. You can check that out here.
  • In past years, SAT scores came back in about three weeks.  This year, due to the new format, the turnaround time will be eight weeks. The March test will also be the first time scores are “normed,” so there is uncertainty about how kids will perform.
  • The ACT added a new writing section this past fall and it is considerably more involved than in previous years; many students have seen their scores come back lower in comparison to other sections. Also, colleges are currently deciding whether they will require students to take the optional writing sections of the ACT or the new SAT. In the past, it was usually a good idea to take the test with writing, especially if applying to more selective schools.
  • This year, and given the changes, it remains to be seen if most colleges will be recommending the optional writing sections on either test. (If you know the schools to which you will apply, you can check on that school’s policy, either on their admissions page or at the ACTSAT site.)  In some cases, you will have the ability to add on the optional essay after registering and you can also decide later not to take it, but you may not get money reimbursed.

As before, students who receive any test accommodations in school may be eligible for similar accommodations with these changes (extended time, use of a keyboard, extra breaks, test broken up over multiple days, etc.). But remember that these accommodations need to be applied for early and proper documentation must be provided. Speak to your child’s school guidance counselor to initiate the process, which is separate for the ACT and the SAT. Your child will not be granted accommodations if they do not have a documented disability.

Keep in mind as well that as always, your student can connect with one of the local or online testing companies to set up a practice ACT if it is not offered at your school. This will allow a comparison of the PSAT and a practice ACT. If one is a clear winner, then your child can just focus on preparation for that test. If you are planning on using outside test preparation help, this is the time to secure whom you plan to work with before schedules get filled.

And finally, remember that some students are not strong test takers and there are many schools that are “test optional.” You can check the current list here.
I know, it’s a lot to take in!  But it’s good for juniors to start making plans if they haven’t already.

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