By Aren Kalash
For many students, this is the year of “the exam.” The feared rite of passage that hounds high schoolers throughout their pre-college careers: the SAT. Although some individuals opt for the increasingly popular ACT, those who do not are plagued by the decision of taking either the old or new version of the SAT, which will first be administered on March 5, 2016.
A detailed comparison of the two exams on the College Board website points out major changes to the test, which include scaled scoring out of 1600 rather than 2400, an optional essay on passage analysis, and redesigned questions in all three sections.
Students who took the PSAT/NMSQT on Oct. 14 were the first to officially encounter the new format. Compared to the pre-2015 version, this PSAT featured an extra 35 minutes, an Evidence-Based Reading & Writing section, and a grading scale of 320-1520 with no penalty for incorrect answers. According to College Board, the new exam “[focuses] on the knowledge, skills, and understandings that research has identified as most important for college and career readiness and success.”
After having taken both the most recent PSAT and old practice SATs, junior Kerr Yoo felt the newer format required extensive analytical reasoning and utilized more “piggyback” problems: “[The PSAT] had a lot of double jeopardy questions… If you got the first one wrong, then you couldn’t get the second one right.”
Sophomore Rayan Hsueh agrees “The [Reading section] was pretty hard for me. I’m not great at grammar.” With this in mind, the question still remains: which one should you take?
Current freshmen must take the new version, while seniors must take the old; sophomores and juniors, however, have the option of either.
Mark Dendy, a Princeton Review tutor for the SAT, offered his opinion: “That’s a tough call. I’d say take advantage of the old one while you can. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to get a good score.”
On one hand, some students plan to take both versions. Kerr Yoo said,“I’m probably taking the one in November…I’m also taking the ACT. I might as well take the new [SAT] too to see if I do any better.” On the other hand, some students have decided to take only the new SAT. Hsueh, for example, said, “I’m bad at writing essays, so the March one is probably a better choice for me.”
Although College Board claims its revised material not only better evaluates a student’s success in the future but also levels the testing ground for lower income students, the true motivations for the changes remain unclear. Guidance counselor Joseph Stopanio speculates the changes may have been implemented to align the test with Common Core standards.
Dendy believes, “It’s all very silly. They’re probably doing it because more kids are taking the ACT now, which the new SAT is supposed to be like…Over all else, it’s a business.”