The Class of 2017 is in a tough spot on the SAT.  Should you take the new SAT or old SAT?  If you take the new SAT, you would be the guinea pigs for a totally new system; if you take the old one, you have a tighter schedule.  How does it break down?

The answer, according to multiple experts, is to definitely take the old SAT (though there are a few exceptions, see below).  Fred Zhang, cofounder of PrepScholar, went through the last SAT transition in 2005, and saw tremendous advantages for the takers of the old SAT.

Admittedly, the schedule is less than optimal.  The final chance you have to take the SAT will be January 2016 (or later in case of a rollout delay), according to the College Board.  This is only the middle of your junior year, which gives you less slack than your older classmates, but has huge advantages.

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More Study Material

You know what the current SAT looks like. There is almost a decade of history with the current SAT.  Everyone knows what the old SAT looks like, how to effectively prepare for it, and what’s on it.  You can do real practice tests that have actually been given in the past.  This advantage cannot be overstated. If you are the studying type, taking a test with no history will greatly lower your relative advantage.  Here are all of the extra resources you get access to with the old SAT:

  • You can ask older classmates for their best tips and strategies.
  • SAT prep companies and study guides will have perfected prepping for the old SAT.
  • More than 20 real practice SATs have been released by the College Board, and practicing using real tests is so important.
  • You can take a real administration early on to get a feel for timing and the tests.
  • Almost all free advice you can find online about the SAT applies best to the old SAT.  They may still hold for the new SAT, but there’s a chance the diametric opposite is true.

The January 2016 Deadline Is Not That Bad

Yes, it does restrict some backup options for you, but really, you don’t want to be studying junior summer, or worse, senior fall.  If you study for the SAT too late, it will interfere with your extracurriculars and college application process.  Ideally, you want junior summer, and certainly senior fall, to be free from the distraction of taking SATs.

Also, if you plan correctly, you’ll actually have more opportunties to take the SAT with a schedule that puts your test in January or before, rather than March or later.  The January 2016 deadline is really not that bad with just a bit of earlier study.

You Get to Take Two Bites at the Apple

You follow the old SAT timeline.  Suppose you do great on the old SAT, blowing it out of the water — great, you don’t need to take the SAT anymore!  Now assume the reverse: you royally mess up on the old SAT, its style isn’t for you.  Is it over?

Not if you’re taking the old SAT — you get to pick from the best of two tests!  Just take the New SAT, and if it’s a better fit for you, you’re golden!

But the reverse scenario?  If you plan to take the new SAT, and then bomb it and figure out you’re actually better at the old SAT?  Sorry pal, but you can’t turn back time — you’re stuck!

Avoid Being a Guinea Pig

In first few administrations of the new SAT, you’ll be a guinea pig for the College Board. They don’t yet have experience in designing flawless problems, calibrating their scale, and perfecting the proctoring instructions.  I personally would not be surprised at more than a few hiccups.

Exceptions: If you’re studying late, or winging it.

There are a few exceptions to the advice that the Class of 2017 should take the old SAT.  The primary one is if you’re starting to study late.  If you haven’t even studied and it’s December 2015, then you won’t have a chance to study enough to do well on the old SAT.  Instead of taking advantage of the rich resources for the old SAT, you might as well scrap together the bits of study material out there for the new SAT.

Another reason is if you’re going to wing the SAT.  For the same reason that studiers benefit from the old SAT, if you’re going to totally wing it anyway, the new SAT is better for you since studiers won’t have as large of a relative advantage.

But the above two cases–studying late or winging the SAT–are not ideal at all.  If you have a choice, I would avoid both of them altogether, but if you don’t, then the new SAT can work for you.

What to Do Next:

Now that you know which SAT to take, you’ll probably want to know how to study for it.

We’ve researched hundreds of student stories and academic studies and found the 5 principles you need to follow to improve your score.

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Long story short: if you can manage it, aiming for the old SAT would be advantageous.  Don’t wait for the new SAT to take it!  Also, check back here for a complete timeline guide for the Class of 2017 taking the SAT.