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School Counselors Mixed on SAT and ACT Advice, As New SAT Arrives

A new survey finds school counselors are offering a range of advice to students about whether to take the current SAT, the new SAT in the spring of 2016, the ACT—or a combination of the three.

About one-third of high school counselors polled by Kaplan Test Prep are advising students to take more than one of the college-entrance exams to see which might help them most in getting into their top-choice school. About 16 percent suggest students take only the ACT, 6 percent advise students to take the current SAT early, and 6 percent are recommending students wait until next March to take the revamped SAT. The remaining counselors say the SAT changes are not affecting their advice to students.

"There's no strong consensus on which approach to take," said Michael Boothroyd, a contributing editor at Kaplan in a press release May 20. Current sophomores who will graduate in the class of 2017 are in a unique position to take both the current and new version of the SAT, as well as the ACT, to see which they prefer. Boothroyd suggests taking all three increases their competitive advantage.

Officials from the College Board, which administers the SAT, have said the new test will be more closely aligned with what students are learning in the classroom. The essay, which will become optional, will require deeper analysis based on evidence. The math section will be more rigorous and calculators will not be allowed. And obscure vocabulary will be replaced with more commonly used words.

The New York-based nonprofit has shared test specs and introduced test prep materials, but educators have been waiting to see the actual test and colleges are still determining what policy changes they need to make.

"There are a lot of unknowns," surrounding the rollout of the new SAT and how colleges will respond, says Jeff Fuller, the president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, in a phone interview. Colleges are waiting for information from the College Board about scoring and concordance, with a shift from a 2,400-point scale to a 1,600-point scale.

In October, College Board will debut a revised Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test that will give students a preview of what to expect on the SAT. By the end of summer or early fall, colleges are likely to make decisions about scores they will accept from which version of the test, says Fuller.

"Folks are eager for information. This is major in the world of college admissions," says Fuller. It's important that school counselors are well-informed enough to advise students on which test to take, he says.

Most high school juniors graduating in the class of 2016 will be taking the current SAT, but some may sit for the new version of the test if they plan to apply to open-access schools in May or June of next year. The shift to the new SAT will take place with the class of 2017, but some may opt to take both versions of the test.

The free online test prep now offered by the College Board and the Khan Academy gives students an additional tool to prepare and drill down on areas they need to improve, adds Fuller.

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