a hand writing in a spiral notebook

There’s no getting around it: the new SAT is coming. After January 23, 2016, it’s sayonara to the old test!

This means you need to be prepared, especially because a quirk of timing makes the March SAT more important to high school juniors than the SAT has ever been for students. Many juniors use the March SAT to prepare for the May SAT, counting on experience to help them focus their studying and achieve higher scores. But the College Board reports that in 2016, the March SAT scores will not be reported until mid-May — after the May 2016 results are analyzed. This does not help students at all!

So why? Data. Any new test needs to be vetted, and the only way to do that is to analyze national results for score ranges, ensuring that questions are performing as intended. The College Board will vet the new test rigorously, but vetting takes time. This means that if you plan to report your spring SAT scores to colleges, you should to take practice tests rather than using the March SAT alone to hone your skills.

It’s also important to understand changes to the New SAT, especially the new scoring structure, which will affect your test strategy. New SAT Scoring Changes

1) No Penalties. Go ahead and guess; the New SAT only gives points. Your incorrect answers can’t count against you. So try to answer every question — it can’t hurt!

2) More Scores. The New SAT has two primary sections instead of three like the current SAT; the New SAT also is scored out of 1600 points instead of 2400 points like the current SAT. This may seem like less opportunity to show your stuff, but wait for it…there’s more!

New subscores and cross-scores pepper each section. Questions are designed to demonstrate your skills in analyzing information from science, general data, history, and social studies, so the College Board will provide more granular score information. While they don’t affect your total score, these point systems give college admissions councils insight into your academic potential.

3) Redesigned Essay. The essay portion of the SAT is currently mandatory, but taking it will be entirely up to you on the New SAT. If you know you’re a great writer and have strong reading analysis skills, go ahead and tackle it. But if you feel the essay might detract from your appeal to colleges, you don’t have to chase that particular whale. (Remember, though: some colleges do require it. Be sure you know your dream school’s rules! College Board is focused on collecting up-to-date information concerning every college’s essay policies). However, C2 recommends that you take the essay—when it comes to college admissions, optional = mandatory!

You also have twice as long to complete the essay—50 minutes rather than 25. And you won’t be asked to discuss your personal experiences, a change that may allow you more creativity in your writing. The new essay will focus on other people’s arguments such that students will no longer write a “yes-no” opinion-based essay, but will write document-based analyses of argument strength and validity.

You can prepare for the New SAT at a C2 Education center near you. Getting feedback on a full practice exam is the best way to prepare for the New SAT and head for the school of your dreams.