Educational Consultant on the New SAT: What Are Your Options?

With the new SAT complicating the admissions process, college admissions expert Mark Montgomery gives guidance to a high school junior with hopes of getting into a great college.

Hi, Mark Montgomery here from Great College Advice, and I get a lot of emails pretty much every day from students all over the country who are asking me their advice about the college planning process. And recently because of the changeover at the College Board from the old SAT to the new SAT, I’ve been getting a whole slew of comments and questions about how to handle this changeover and the impact that it’s having on kids.

So I got an email today from Justin, who writes the following. He says, “I am a junior and I just got my scores from the old SAT, and they were 800 in reading, 730 in writing, and a 580 on the math, for a total of 2110.” He goes on: “As I understand it, colleges won’t superscore between the old and the new tests, and so my very high scores would not be taken into account if I took the new version of the SAT. I do have a score of 740 on the math 1 SAT II Subject test, and high grades in my math class. Should I take the new SAT and try for a higher score? Or accept my current grades? Thanks for your insight.”

Well, Justin, first of all, hallelujah on that 800 reading score. Fantastic. And the writing score, 730, that’s really high. A lot of kids have been having trouble with that writing, even on the old SAT. The math, yeah, that’s not so much in line with what you’re trying to do, and what you don’t write here but I’m going to assume that you’re trying to buck for some of the most selective colleges and universities in the United States so that 580 really is kind of a clunker in comparison to your other scores.

Now, you do point out that you got a 740 on the math 1 SAT Subject test, so those SAT II Subject tests, that’s great, although a 740 on the math 1 is not as good as a 740 on the math level 2 exam. So a couple of things here. Number one, yes, you’re probably, if you’re really bucking for the top schools, you have a couple of choices. Yes, you could take the new SAT and play your odds the best you can, we don’t have a lot of information about how that test is going to go down. There are materials on Khan Academy, there are materials on the College Board site, and some tutors are really trying to keep up and trying to prepare to make sure that they can help kids get the best scores on those new SAT exams.

Or you could also take the ACT exam, try that one instead, see how you do. I would also definitely recommend that you prep no matter what, make sure that you’re getting the help you need. And then if you’re really actually bucking for the top schools, you might want to also focus on the SAT II level 2 Subject tests. If you’re a junior, you’ve got some time and you may as well use that time to your advantage, prepare like heck, and also consider taking the ACT and submitting those scores instead. Sometimes kids do better on the ACT than they do on the SAT and if you killed it on the reading in the SAT in its old form, I think you’ll do pretty well on the reading for the ACT too.

So give that a whirl, I hope that’s helpful, and good luck to you. And readers, if you have questions you want to submit, don’t hesitate, you can put them in the comment section, or you can also send me an email. Thanks!

Published by Mark Montgomery

Mark is a leading educational consultant. His experience as a professor, college administrator, and youth mentor help him guide students from around the country and around the world.

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