SAT Tip of the Week: Should You Take the Test in 2015 or 2016?

SAT Tip of the Week - FullThere is a new SAT debuting in 2016 by College Board. It is more progressive and will better reflect student’s intelligence and aptitude. While still very coachable, the new SAT will not be as easy to boost your score to such extreme levels as the old one.

What I mean by this is with the right preparation and study habits, a student can go up by 300 or 400 points from their initial practice test on the old SAT. However, on the new SAT, students will be able to see large increases in their score with the right tutoring and preparation, but 400 point jumps will be much more infrequent. If a student is still on the fence about taking the old one versus the new one, I would say it depends on how much one wants to prepare.

It comes down to understanding the type of student you are and in what way you succeed. If school doesn’t come as easy to you and you spend hours studying for tests, you will fare better on the old one. On the other hand, if sitting down to study for months does work for you, the new test is better. There is one caveat that exists with both tests. No matter how smart you are, it’s very hard to obtain an elite score on either test without a lot of guided preparation. The SAT is just not one of those things anyone really skates by on natural intelligence, even with the progressive changes. Here a couple key changes you will see on the SAT in 2016:

Vocabulary Words in Context:

On the new SAT, College Board says you won’t have to memorize a bunch of obscure words that you will never use again. While this is good for your sanity and productivity in the grand scheme of things, vocabulary provided a great opportunity for any student to bump up their score if they put in the time to prepare for it. On the new test the vocabulary will be similar to what you see on passage based reading now. It will ask you what the word most nearly means in context. Understanding vocabulary will still be a crucial component of the new test, but there won’t be an easy 50 to 100 point boost from vocabulary that you used to have.

No Wrong Answer Penalty:

There will be no penalty for wrong answers on the new test. On the old test, you got docked a quarter of a point for every wrong answer. That is not the case on the new one. This allows you to guess at will. However, if more students start guessing and hitting on correct answers, the curve will go up a bit. If you have prepared and wouldn’t use this new feature too often, I highly recommend taking the old test.

New Essay:

The old test essay was extremely coachable. Any student, with the right training could be taught how to write a 10-12 essay. While this will still be possible on the new SAT, it will take a lot more time and training to get a 10-12 type score if you are not a naturally gifted writer. It still can happen, but the new SAT definitely favors stronger writers for this section.

There are other key changes to the SAT in terms of Math and Reading Comprehension, but these will be just as coachable as the old test. What it comes down is if you put in three months of studying under the right guidance of Veritas Prep, your efforts will be better rewarded on the old test than the new one.

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Jake Davidson is a Mork Family Scholar at USC and enjoys writing for the school paper as well as participating in various clubs. He has been tutoring privately since the age of 15 and is incredibly excited to help students succeed on the SAT.