Ahead of the Curve on the Redesigned SAT

You’d think that the looming SAT and college applications, as well as what are arguably the most important years of high school, would be enough to juggle. Instead, many college-bound juniors and seniors have an additional curve ball to hit this year — the redesigned SAT. Instead of being able to take advantage of a wealth of tried-and-true test prep material, you have to take a brand new exam while having access to fewer prep resources. Ugh.

There has been no shortage of doom-and-gloom articles and blog posts about the redesigned SAT and why test-takers should avoid the first few administrations, or take the ACT, or just skip college altogether and embrace freedom for the next four years. We’re kidding about that last part. But while there are a few legitimate words of caution about taking the new SAT, primarily around the late timing of score releases from the first administration, there is no reason to fear or dread the new exam. Read on as we examine two of the more common concerns and why everything is going to be ok. Really.


1. Worry: There isn’t enough prep material out there, and none of it has been vetted

Don’t worry: We know that for the most eager college-bound students, there is no such thing as too much practice material, but be realistic and honest with yourself. How many full-length, four-hour practice tests are you going to take before taking the official exam? Remember that a practice test isn’t a teaching tool, it’s an assessment tool, so you shouldn’t be taking more than one a week anyway. Furthermore, this isn’t the first test change that most major test prep outfits have gone through, so even though there isn’t as much material available, there’s no reason to believe it’s not thoroughly researched. You will also find four full practice tests directly from the College Board, complete with explanations. If you take the time to prepare just like you would have for a previous administration, you will find more than sufficient resources.


2. Worry: The first iteration of the redesigned SAT will be much more difficult and scores will suffer

Don’t worry: This falls under a larger myth, or group of myths, surrounding the supposed relative difficulty of different SAT administrations. It goes like this: certain administrations of the SAT are taken by the most eager gunners, who then skew the scores and curve up and down. While pervasive, this “fact” is just not true. The SAT’s curve is a function of the test, not of its test-takers. Think about it, the College Board wants the SAT to be reliably valid from test to test so that colleges know that they can properly compare students across test administrations over time.

However, there will be natural variations between tests. The College Board solves for these variations with a process called ‘equating’, so that the bell curve remains consistent. Because of this process, it doesn’t matter if a particular test is objectively more or less difficult, since it will be the same for everyone. A student who takes a “harder” test will need fewer correct answers to achieve the same percentile score, and a student who takes an “easier” test will require more correct answers to unlock a higher score. This goes for everyone taking the test. Remember also that the guessing penalty is gone on the redesigned SAT, and that there are now four answer choices instead of five. So, even if you have to resort to guessing, you are more likely to get a correct answer, with no risk.


Are you planning on taking the redesigned SAT in March? Share your concerns and test-prep tips with us below.