The College Board recently released the SAT testing schedule through the 2018-2019 school year. Of note are two significant changes taking place in 2017 and 2018. For the first time, the College Board has added an August test date, and in 2018, will eliminate the January exam. As with any significant change, there will be debates concerning who benefits from and who is hurt by these decisions. Although there is no way to please all interested parties, the new August test date will provide far more positives than negatives: it is a change we think most students and parents will welcome.
Historically, Method Test Prep has encouraged juniors to start taking the SAT in January, one of the three test dates for which the Question and Answer Service (QAS) is available. The QAS is an invaluable tool for students serious about raising their scores. It is yet to be determined how the new test schedule will affect which test dates will include the QAS. If the QAS is not offered in August, it will be a negative change for seniors who take the August exam. Even if the QAS is made available for the August exam in lieu of the eliminated January QAS, it might not be very useful: the printed test copies usually hit mailboxes roughly six to eight weeks after the test date, meaning the August QAS might not arrive in time for students to use it to prepare for the exam in October, which is typically the last SAT seniors take. In response to this, we would advise advanced students to consider accelerating their testing schedule by sitting for their first test in October, another test for which the QAS is available. Of course the College Board has not yet released their proposed QAS availability for 2017-2018, so this is still speculative.
Importantly, the College Board will face challenges in executing the August exam. In many areas of the country, the school year will not have begun by the test date. This means that staffing exams and finding test centers with enough air-conditioned rooms to accommodate students could be a challenge, especially in lower income areas that are less likely to have air-conditioned buildings. In turn, students looking to take advantage of the August test date may have to travel longer distances to sit for the exam. It also has yet to be determined how fee waivers will be handled for the new test.
We do believe that the potential positives far outweigh the potential negatives discussed above. The August test will provide seniors plenty of time to prepare without the added weight of schoolwork. The August exam will also give seniors a longer “runway”, if you will, when it comes to submitting early decision applications: many seniors will be able to test twice more before their early decision application deadlines. Finally, an August test will eliminate the weather problems and subsequent test postponements that accompany the winter months, as any east-coaster who was scheduled to take the most recent January exam can attest.
We won't fully understand the implications of the January-August test date swap until it actually happens. Overall, though, we think most students and parents will appreciate the new option, and that the August test date will quickly become one of the most popular.
For a full calendar of future test dates, visit the College Board’s website: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/dates-deadlines