A Summer SAT at Long Last!
The College Board has announced that it will offer an August date for the SAT, beginning in 2017. This announcement comes in response to significant student demand for summer testing – a demand already met by the College Board’s chief competitor, the ACT, Inc. with its early September test. The College Board’s new testing schedule will enable current sophomores and freshman to take an official SAT before the heavy academic lifting of junior and senior year begins. In August, most students are at the tail end of their summer break, while others are in the early weeks of school before major assignments and tests are due, making it an ideal time to complete an official SAT. To accommodate the August testing opportunity, the College Board is eliminating the relatively less popular January test date. While the scheduling trade-off is a welcome decision for many students, it will have important implications for the subset of students that have benefited from a January test date.
The advent of the August SAT
In 2012 when the College Board administered an official SAT at Amherst College during a summer academic program, students lined up to participate. A public outcry emerged when word circulated about the exclusive nature of this summer testing opportunity, available only to students able to pay the $4,500 program fee. By adding an August date to its regular testing roster, the College Board has now made summer testing available to the general student population. Here is the preliminary testing schedule for the 2017-2018 SAT:
|August 26, 2016||October 7, 2017||November 4, 2017||December 2, 2017|
|March 10, 2018||May 5, 2018||June 2, 2018|
The August test will come a full six weeks before the October administration. This move will be a boon to seniors looking to take the SAT or SAT Subject Tests in advance of early application deadlines. Currently, the October SAT is the only option for seniors looking to make a final or last-minute testing push. Starting in 2017 students will have both August and October opportunities to complete testing before most early decision and early action deadlines.
Although the August test will predominantly benefit seniors, it will also aid juniors who choose to commence their test preparation over the summer months. Prepping over the summer before Junior year is an increasingly common practice for students with rigorous academic loads and heavy activity schedules. Until now, students who completed a course of SAT prep over the summer had to wait until October to lock in their gains on an official SAT test. This new administration allows a student who starts prep in July to immediately lock in those gains at the end of August, while the material is top of mind.
Goodbye January testing
While the addition of an August test date will benefit most students, a segment of senior test-takers will be negatively affected by the elimination of the January test date. This graph illustrates the proportion of junior and senior test-takers from our tutoring class of 2015.
Of all Applerouth students who took the January SAT, only 7%, were seniors. With many regular decision application deadlines in December and January it’s not surprising that we see the proportion of senior test-takers dropping steadily after the fall tests. But, as with almost everything in college admissions, important exceptions abound. For the individual senior who would have relied on the January test for any reason, this change will be a loss. For example, some students who have been deferred from the early admissions pool continue testing in January to enhance their odds of winning a spot in the regular decision process. We’ve also seen recruited athletes test in January if they need to cross a particular score threshold required by a Division I program. The January test also benefits seniors applying to programs with later regular decision deadlines. For these students, the elimination of the January test will put pressure on those December SAT scores, and perhaps disadvantage those who are arriving a bit later to the process due to information/resource gaps or other hurdles. And lastly, the January test is often taken by students who have already secured an acceptance, but need higher scores to qualify for merit-based scholarships or honors programs. These students will need to push their testing efforts later, into the March, May and June test dates, depending on the allowances of specific schools.
Testing based on a student’s schedule
Giving students more choices of when to take an official test is beneficial. One day, in the not so distant digital testing future, students may be able to take the SAT or ACT on their own schedule, as is currently the case with the GMAT, GRE, and numerous other admissions assessments. When students have more choice regarding when they take tests, they can select dates that will be less disruptive and stressful. Giving students the option of completing testing during the least stressful and scheduled time of the year is a move in the right direction.