Feb 8, 2016

The College Board announces an August test date

Don’t get too excited yet. But the College Board has quietly announced the addition of an August, 2017 test date.  And for the first time since the ‘70s, students will have the option of taking both the SAT and SAT Subject Tests in the summer.

The announcement didn’t come in the form of a press release, and there were none of the bells and whistles usually associated with major changes in tests and testing.  The new test option simply appeared in charts laying out “anticipated” administration dates for 2017-18 and 2018-19. And it comes along with the elimination of the far less popular January test date in 2018.

For anyone associated with the college admissions industry, the addition of an August SAT/SAT Subject Test date is huge.  On the one hand, it corresponds to increased pressure to begin the application process and associated testing earlier. That may not be so good. But it also provides an additional opportunity for college-bound seniors to prep for and take the test one more time before early applications begin to come due as early as mid-October. And that’s great.

As colleges have slowly pushed up early application deadlines and the advantages of early admissions appear increasingly attractive to most students, the call for late summer test dates has become louder and more insistent.  In fact, the College Board tried to add an August test for an elite group of students attending an expensive college prep summer camp. That idea was shot down, but not without some stewing about a larger need within the entire college-bound community.

To accommodate the clear need, ACT added a September test date several years ago, which has become very popular among students seeking to squeeze in one more set of results before applications are completed and submitted. The October dates, offered by both ACT and the College Board were cutting things a little close for students hoping to review scores before submitting official results to colleges. And the added stress of trying to prepare for standardized tests while writing applications and keeping up with senior-year classes was enormous.

According to Katherine Levin, a spokeswoman for the College Board, the decision to add a late-August test date and eliminate the January one was based on feedback from students, higher-education professionals, test-center supervisors and others involved in supporting students through the admissions process. A summer SAT will, she said to The Atlantic, “provide students with earlier opportunities to take the SAT before submitting college applications, and more time to focus on coursework, school activities, and college applications in the fall of their senior year.”

An August exam, however, comes with a few logistical problems not the least of which may involve air conditioning and the availability of test administrators or proctors in areas where schools are not yet in session.  

While not impossible to address, these concerns have some wondering if the College Board has adequately prepared for pushback from school-based staff not particularly happy about cutting summer breaks short. 

We are anticipating that the new August test date will immediately become one of the top three most popular dates of the year," said Adam Ingersoll, of the Compass Education Group. He adds there are "serious concerns about [the] College Board’s ability to orchestrate enough test centers to handle the demand.”

And with problems ranging from scoring to score reporting encountered while rolling out the new “suite” of assessments starting with last October’s PSAT, the College Board clearly has lots with which to cope.  Earlier hints of computer-based testing, possibly offered as early as this year, also provide food for thought about pending initiatives, especially those designed to keep pace with innovations at ACT

On balance, however, the late-August test date is a welcome move on the part of the College Board. And the Board has given itself lots of time to work out whatever test site issues may exist—1.5 years to be exact!

SAT/SAT Subject Test dates for the next three application cycles may be found on the College Board website.

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