Should Juniors Take the New SAT Test?

Should juniors in high school take the new SAT test?

This is a question that many 11th graders are stressing out about as the rollout for the new SAT approaches. The dramatically overhauled test will make its premiere on March 5, 2016.

Juniors will be the first to grapple with this question because the launch date of the new test will be too late for seniors. Meanwhile, ninth and tenth graders can sit back and read the reviews of the new test before they have to decide whether to take the ACT or the SAT.

In the video below, I asked Adam Ingersoll, who is a founder of Compass Education Group, a test-prep firm based in compassBeverly Hills and San Francisco, to share his advice on which test juniors should take. He also discussed differences among the new and old SAT and the ACT.

I sought out Ingersoll because his firm, which provides test prep to students around the globe, has annually produced an extremely helpful guide that among other things compares the ACT and SAT and provides updates on standardized test changes.

If you have questions about the SAT or ACT, I’d urge you to download a free copy of the 80-page resource entitled, The Compass Guide to College Admission Testing 2015-2016.

Standardized Test Choices for Juniors

Juniors, who are trying to figure out what standardized test to take, have the following three standardized-test options:

Current SAT. Dates: Oct. 3, Nov. 7, Dec. 5, Jan. 23.

New SAT. Dates: March 5, May 7, June 4.

ACT. Dates: Oct. 24, Dec. 12, Feb. 6, April 9, June 11.

Which Test to Take?

Here is what Ingersoll had to say about the three choices that juniors face:


It’s best to avoid being a guinea pig for the new SAT.

The available practice tests and scaling for the new SAT are half-baked compared to its competitor (the ACT), and there’s little reason to sit for this test until it establishes a track record. All students should take the new PSAT offered at their school in October 2015 to see if they are one of the rare exceptions who is perfectly suited for the new SAT despite the compromises.

Current SAT

Ingersoll’s issue with the current SAT – discontinued as of January 2016 – is that the compressed timeline forces Juniors to try to peak on the test earlier than is realistic. Data show that very few students are able to peak on college admission tests until the end of 11th grade or fall of 12th grade.

For most Juniors, it’s always been a smart move to wait to take the SAT until second semester of 11th grade. This can especially be helpful for faring better on the math portion of the test.

If this year’s Juniors rush to take the current SAT by January and aren’t satisfied with their scores (likely the case), they wouldn’t be able to take that version of the test again. These Juniors would then either have to tackle the new SAT or the ACT, which are both significantly different from the soon-to-be-defunct SAT model.

Because of the likelihood of having to take the test twice – and remember Ingersoll’s clients are mostly affluent and their students typically do sit for the exam more than once – he believes it’s better for most juniors to ignore the old SAT.

Current SAT Exceptions

Ingersoll did say that there are a few Juniors who are well-advised to take the old SAT.

Juniors who scored at the 90+ percentile level on their Sophomore PSAT (the old version) and who have aced a practice test for the old SAT may want to go ahead and take it. These superstars probably wouldn’t have to take the SAT more than once.


Ingersoll believes the best option for most juniors will be the ACT. This test is a known quantity and if a student doesn’t do well on the ACT, it will be easier to transition to the new SAT than it would be to move from the old SAT to the new SAT version.



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12 Responses to Should Juniors Take the New SAT Test?

  1. Vince Kotchian November 24, 2015 at 8:25 pm #

    “It’s best to avoid being a guinea pig for the new SAT. The available practice tests and scaling for the new SAT are half-baked compared to its competitor (the ACT), and there’s little reason to sit for this test until it establishes a track record. All students should take the new PSAT offered at their school in October 2015 to see if they are one of the rare exceptions who is perfectly suited for the new SAT despite the compromises.”

    As a tutor, I want to take issue with the above advice. Though I generally agree that the ACT is going to be a better test for most students, “rare” is not the word I’d use to describe students who can potentially do very well on the new SAT. There will be many students who can do well: strong readers and strong math students, in particular, and those who are smart but who don’t work as quickly (the ACT is a sprint).

    Students should not rely on the PSAT as a predictor, either, since the results are notoriously slow to come back and may be further delayed this year since the test is new. Instead, juniors should take a revised SAT practice test from the College Board and compare it to their practice ACT score, then decide.

  2. Jill L October 10, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

    NY Long Island school district states for 10th graders who take PSAT that “in order to be considered for National Merit Scholarships they must take the exam again in 11th grade” Is this true?

  3. Kris Zavoli October 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm #

    I would reinforce that taking the PSAT/NMSQT, old or new, as a junior is the only way to enter the National Merit Competition. Students planning to graduate in 3 years should take the PSAT as a 10th grader to enter National Merit.

  4. Louise Larsen October 7, 2015 at 11:50 am #

    The article below is about Virginia Tech not accepting the old SAT for the 2017 cohort.

    • DMK October 9, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

      The comment at the bottom of that Virginia Tech article is spot on and surprised no one else is commenting on that. VT’s _stated_ reasons for doing so aside, all VT is doing is unnecessarily and selfishly adding more stress to what is already a very unfortunate and stressful transition year for the Class of 2017. Shame on them.

      Here’s the original comment to save people the trouble of clicking the link:
      “Hope someone talked with the finance office before announcing this decision!

      US News Rankings impact university bond ratings (thus interest rates, construction of new buildings, etc), and selectivity (# of applicants/acceptance rate) is one of the main variables. With this decision, many of the high-achieving students in the Class of 2017 (who are savvily avoiding the new SAT due to the idiotic timetable whereby March 2016 scores don’t even come out in time for the May 2016 test and kids will just be flying blind) will just not bother applying to VT…I’d be shocked if VT applications don’t dip by 8-12% for this class.

      I work closely with another East Coast university whose admissions office was pondering the same thing until the finance office wisely educated them as to the perilous nature of that decision and they dropped it. In our area, all the high achievers need their May SAT date open for SAT Subject Tests and would just have told this university in question “oh well” and not applied. No one is rejiggering his or her entire testing plans for VT…”

  5. Thank you for this info. Many families are wondering about the changes to the SAT and it’s causing lots of anxiety in an already stressful time.

  6. Cathy Riely October 6, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    Under Current SAT Exceptions, you mention juniors who have done well on the PSAT. Juniors are taking a PSAT this year based on the new SAT format. So I would say juniors that have done well on practice PSATs (or on the test that will be given in a few weeks) are New SAT Exceptions, not Current SAT Exceptions. PSAT Prep Classes have been preparing for the new PSAT since this summer. So the only Current SAT Exceptions might be those who have taken an old PSAT (maybe in their sophomore year) and done really well?

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy October 6, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

      Hi Cathy,

      Thanks for your question. I consulted with Adam Ingersoll and I have now clarified the circumstances when juniors should take the old SAT. This group includes juniors who did well as sophomores on the old PSAT.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  7. zzzzzz October 6, 2015 at 3:33 am #

    I believe there is also a December 5 test date for the current SAT.

    I also believe this month’s PSAT will use a format similar to the new SAT, so doing well on that may not be an indicator of doing well on the old SAT. In addition, they may not get PSAT results until December, leaving only one shot at the old SAT.

    Perhaps doing very well on the PSAT this month might suggest those students would also do well on the new SAT.

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy October 6, 2015 at 5:13 pm #

      Hi ZZZZ,

      I overlooked putting in the Dec. 5 date originally and it’s now in the blog post. Please read the post again because I addressed your issue about the new PSAT when I edited it.

      Lynn O.

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