Parents of high school sophomores and juniors should consider NOW focusing on A.C.T. prep as an alternative to the "new S.A.T." Why?
1. Current sophomores and juniors are caught in the transition between the current/"old" SAT, which continues through the fall semester, and the "new" SAT which debuts in March 2016; the "old" version expires in January. The A.C.T. will be the same test format after January as before.
2. A much wider variety of well-established and proven study materials exist, right now, for the A.C.T. compared to the "new" S.A.T.
3. The A.C.T. has a well-established reputation for being more closely tied to the high school curriculum than the S.A.T. (S.A.T. reading passages and vocabulary have tended in the past -- and appear to continue, based on early-released samples -- to include more obscure content that most high school students would not have been directly exposed to.)
4. In the past, the A.C.T. has been said to cover one additional year of the high school math curriculum compared to the S.A.T. That will no longer be the case with the new S.A.T.
5. Don't worry excessively about the A.C.T.'s "Science" section. It's a READING test that uses science as its context, but it does NOT test your specific knowledge of the science curriculum. What it DOES test is your ability to gather information from multiple formats of reading, such as charts, graphs, tables, and other visual representations in addition to text, and to draw appropriate conclusions from the material. It helps to be literate in science-related current events, but not necessarily to be a star student in any one science course. An excellent Reading tutor who is comfortable with graphic data, and knows science current events, would be an excellent A.C.T. science tutor.
6. The A.C.T. is accepted by nearly every college in the United States as the full equivalent of an S.A.T. score. In fact, the A.C.T. has actually been the better-selling test over the past year or two, which has certainly motivated the College Board to update the S.A.T.
You should not assume that your child will "ace" either test compared to the other. Many years of data collection indicate that students who do well on one test tend to do well on the other, and that poor scorers on either test will probably also not do well on the other. Both tests are challenging and substantive. Both tests deserve careful preparation and practice before taking them.
But overall I believe, at this moment in time, the A.C.T. offers a smoother path to effective preparation, and a more flexible calendar for re-taking the test. For example, any junior who prepares for to take the S.A.T. for the first time in the September through January time period, will only be able to re-take a comparable test during those months. By spring, your only S.A.T. option would be to take a newly-formatted test that you had not prepared for.
For further information, contact any of us who provide both S.A.T. and A.C.T. preparation to find out what your local experts advise. Give some special consideration to the A.C.T. in the upcoming year or two.