When the College Board first announced the addition of an August test date for the SAT beginning this summer, cheers went up among those who had lobbied for adjusting the test schedule to accommodate the reality of earlier application deadlines. ACT added a September test several years ago, which turned out to be enormously popular among students with time to prep over the summer who wanted one last try before going the early admissions route. And the College Board finally saw the wisdom of doing the same.
But enthusiasm for the August test date wasn’t universally shared, particularly among test site administrators in school districts starting late in August or after Labor Day. They could easily see how difficult it would be to open buildings and find staff willing to end summer vacations early to proctor one more test.
And it appears they were right. A quick comparison of test site availability for the August 26 SAT as compared with the October 7 SAT shows that so far the College Board has come up a little short in finding seats for the test.
For example, the College Board ordinarily offers up to about 40 sites that are considered a reasonable distance (under 40 miles) from my Virginia zip code. For August, there are only 12 locations, and they do not include the high schools closest to my home which have been popular sites in the past. Instead of traveling 3.6 miles to take the test, my nearest site is about double the distance away–admittedly not too much of a hardship as long as seats remain open. But I certainly would not want to have to travel to some of the further locations suggested by the College Board, which would take me 35 miles from home and across the Washington Beltway!
Using information provided by the College Board, it appears that about 1,970 sites in the U.S. (including D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) will be administering the SAT and SAT Subject tests on August 26. On October 7, however, almost 3,440 sites will be giving the test.
In Virginia, there will be 134 test locations for October and 84 in August. Pennsylvania will open 231 sites in October, but only 87 in August. In New York, it’s 263 locations for October, and 53 in August. Massachusetts has 140 test sites in October and 37 in August. And in New Jersey, students will have 203 locations from which to choose in October, but only 69 in August.
Note that the number of available test sites offered doesn’t necessarily correlate with or predict the number of seats available. In this area, it appears that the larger sites will be open for business in August, while some of the smaller sites have opted out.
The August date is also replacing the relatively unpopular January test, which will no longer be given. And it’s possible that sites simply don’t want to add another working Saturday to their calendars.
But given the convenience of the new August test relative to making decisions about application strategies—binding Early Decision vs. nonbinding Early Action vs. Regular Decision–and ensuring timely delivery of scores, it seems entirely possible that the new date could be very popular–possibly more popular than October.
“We’re seeing a great degree of interest for the August test in all of our markets, coast to coast. Students have so many academic demands as juniors. APs wrap in May, then final exams, and then the early application deadlines hit in Mid-October to November. August stands out as an excellent time to take an SAT, fully prepared, with minimal academic distractions,” explained Jed Applerouth, founder and CEO of Applerouth Tutoring. “I’m personally a huge fan of summer testing. Ideally students will be able to take these college assessments entirely on their own schedule. The summer, not surprisingly, is one of the most spacious times for many students, affording them the time to focus, prepare, and go in with the greatest chance of success.”
In other words, if I lived in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania or Virginia, I would be registering NOW and not later!
ACT is countering with a summer test of their own. In 2018, the ACT will be adding a July test date to the standardized test calendar.