FACT: The average SAT score improvement for Great Expectations students in the Class of ’20 was 240 points.

On the surface, the SAT’s changes may appeal to many students: in a deliberate effort to focus on material more relevant in college and the real world, the College Board has moved away from testing geometry, obscure vocabulary words, and the like. Before a student gets excited by these omissions, however, it would behoove them to investigate what will be tested in their place.

Whereas the prior Math section barely touched on Algebra II, the new one goes as far as pre-calculus. The new Reading section includes far denser, more complex texts to analyze and less time in which to do so. The essay is no longer a short sample of straight-forward opinion-based writing; rather, it is a long, complicated exercise in analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of rhetorical devices used in famous political and social texts.

We encourage students to at least consider the ACT. For students who don’t know which exam they want to pursue (ACT or SAT), we offer a program that is an efficient, cost-effective way to truly determine which test is the best fit. We encourage you to explore our group programs to learn more about what they offer, how they work, et cetera. If the SAT proves to be the right choice, then we would be delighted to help you prepare for it!

PSAT

WHAT TO KNOW

For most students, the PSAT offers an opportunity to gauge their standardized testing abilities before taking the “real” SAT (or ACT, as the case may be), giving them ample time to prepare. Also, colleges keep an eye on the results and send materials to students whose scores fall within (or near) their standard admissions range.

The PSAT also serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, and for excellent students, this offers a chance to garner both scholarship money and recognition from top universities. (Only scores submitted during a student’s junior year are valid for entry.)

Out of the average 1.5 million entrants, the top 3% (approx. 50,000) receive recognition for their results. Two-thirds of those (approx. 34,000) receive Letters of Commendation for their outstanding performance, while one-third (approx. 16,000) qualify as semifinalists. Of these, the National Merit Scholarship Program selects 15,000 students (1% of all entrants) as finalists based on overall academic performance, not just PSAT scores. Finally, slightly more than half (approx. 8,400 students) are selected to receive a monetary Merit Scholarship award.

Any level of National Merit recognition is extremely prestigious and greatly enhances a college application.

WHAT IT IS

The PSAT is offered once a year in mid-October and reflects the content and organizational changes of the SAT.

It consists of five sections that span 2 hours and 45 minutes:

  • 60 minutes of Reading
  • 70 minutes of Math
  • 35 minutes of Writing and Language

The new test comes, of course, with new scoring; tests will be scored on a 160-760 scale (previously 20-80). The percentile ranking, which compares you to other students who took the test the same day, is often the easiest to gauge how “well” you did.

While most students who take the PSAT are juniors, it is also a great chance for sophomores (and even freshmen) to familiarize themselves with what’s to come.

Unlike the last generation of the PSAT/SAT, there is NO penalty for wrong answers, so guessing is completely acceptable.

For more specifications regarding the PSAT changes, please view College Board’s comparison chart.

WHAT WE RECOMMEND

PSAT preparation is worth pursuing in two instances:

  • If a student is on the cusp of National Merit recognition, it is likely worth the time and energy to prepare. National Merit students need to be in the top 3%, so if you are testing in/near the top 10% without any preparation, you have a good chance of making the cut!
  • If you intend to take the SAT shortly after the PSAT and simply want to start early. You can use the PSAT as a practice test to gauge what needs to be worked on for the real SAT, and your tutor can benefit from reviewing the official results with you and seeing how well (or poorly) you implemented the strategies under pressure!

If a student is NOT a good test taker and/or is unsure whether to pursue the SAT or ACT, PSAT preparation is not necessarily the best undertaking. Students can use that time and energy to review fundamental math and grammar concepts or even explore the differences between the SAT and ACT in order to decide which is a better fit for them.

SAT

WHAT TO KNOW

Many people do well on the PSAT, then poorly on the SAT. Why? Not only does the SAT cover more advanced material and include an essay, but it is significantly longer; a lot of students have not honed the mental endurance necessary to focus for several hours. (And don’t forget the rumors that PSAT scores were artificially inflated last year to encourage students to give the SAT a try…)

 

2020-21 SAT DATES REGISTRATION DEADLINES
August 29, 2020 ^ TBD
September 26, 2020 ^ TBD
October 3, 2020 * ^ TBD
November 7, 2020 ^ TBD
December 5, 2020 ^ TBD
March 13, 2021 * ^ TBD
May 8, 2021 * ^ TBD
June 5, 2021 ^ TBD

* Question and Answer Services Available
^ Anticipated Dates

WHAT IT IS

The SAT consists of five sections that span 3 hours and 50 minutes:

  • 65 minutes of Reading
  • 80 minutes of Math
  • 50 minutes for the Essay (technically “optional,” but many colleges require it)
  • 35 minutes of Writing and Language

Tests will be scored on a 200-1600 scale (previously 600-2400); 200-800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and 200-800 for Math. The essay is scored on three traits, and students receive a score of 2-8 for each trait (the essay results do NOT factor into the composite).

Unlike the last generation of the SAT, there is NO penalty for wrong answers, so guessing is completely acceptable.

For specifications regarding the SAT changes, you can view College Board’s comparison chart and College Board’s explanation of the content changes.

To view sample questions for the SAT, explore College Board’s published sample questions.

WHAT WE RECOMMEND

In the past, students typically fared better on either the SAT or the ACT, depending on their natural strengths and weaknesses. Now, the design of the new SAT makes it unlikely that a student who struggles on the ACT will shine on the SAT. That being said, the slower pacing of the SAT might come into play for strong students who have mastery of the material itself and only struggle with time constraints. Strong students who excel at standardized testing (and have already secured an impressive score on the ACT) may consider taking the SAT if they are intrigued by the format and want to give it a shot.

The College Board’s eventual hope is that the more prestigious colleges will come to prefer the SAT, but until scoring is truly standardized and admissions officers understand how to interpret the scores (and are convinced that they are, indeed, a better gauge of success than ACT scores), that preference is far from a reality.

Explore our various Classic packages and Founder’s Circle packages to determine which is best for you!