The College Board offers a program called SAT School Day, which, as the name suggests, allows schools to offer the SAT to students during the week, generally for free.
In some states, all high school juniors are required to take the SAT under this program, while in others only some are. Read on to learn more about this program and what it means for you.
Why Do Some States Require the SAT?
When statewide testing started, Colorado and Illinois decided to partner with ACT, Inc. to use the ACT as the assessment for 11th graders. This plan was meant to eliminate an extra test for students who were already planning to apply to college while also encouraging those who weren't planning for college to consider it. Over the next decade and a half, the two states became 20, and the ACT replaced the SAT as the most popular college admissions test in the US.
In 2010, the College Board introduced a similar program (called SAT School Day) that was meant to increase access to the SAT for low-income students. Althought the program caught on in a few places (most notably Delaware), the SAT wasn't as widely accepted as an assessment test because it's generally considered to test aptitude rather than knowledge. For the 2014-2015 school year, only three states offered the SAT free to all juniors, though certain districts or schools did so in a handful more.
However, the redesigned SAT may shift the momentum. One of the primary goals of the overhaul was to align the new test with Common Core standards, making it far more appealing as an assessment test than the older version. There are some early indications that the College Board's gambit will be successful: Connecticut, New Hampshire and Michigan have all signed contracts and administered the new SAT statewide in spring 2016. It's likely that other states will follow suit.
Which States Require the SAT?
There are a total of 18 states (plus Washington, D.C.) contracted with the College Board to adminster the SAT to some or all juniors for free. Let's go through the exact situation for each, one at a time. (Note that these statements only apply to public school students.)
As of the 2016-2017 school year, all Colorado juniors in public schools will take the SAT.
As of the 2015-2016 school year, all Connecticut juniors will take the SAT.
Delaware adminsters the SAT to all juniors.
District of Columbia
Although it's not required, the SAT is offered for free to all juniors and seniors in D.C.
In order to graduate high school, Idaho students must take the SAT, the ACT or the Compass exam. The state offers a free administration of the SAT—if a student wishes to take one of the other tests, she must pay for it.
Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, all Illinois juniors will take the SAT.
Historically, Maine has required the SAT of all juniors, but in 2015 the Department of Education made the test optional (though still free).
As I mentioned above, Michigan administered the SAT to juniors statewide for the first time in the 2015-2016 school year. Previously, students were given the ACT.
As of spring 2016, all New Hampshire juniors will take the SAT.
Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, all New York juniors will take the SAT.
Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, Rhode Island juniors will have the option to take free SAT tests in school, though the tests will not be required.
There are a number of other states where some schools or districts can adminster the test to their students (either as an option or a requirement). These include Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennesse, and Texas.
What Does Statewide Testing Mean For Your SAT Prep?
The SAT is the same whether you take it on a regular test date or a state-administered one. Nonetheless, there are a few things to keep in mind if you'll be required to take it.
A Free Test
Because the state foots the bill for their own administration of the test, you won't have to pay any fees to take the SAT on that date. This discount may or may not be important for you, but if it is, make sure to study for the statewide testing date. The free test includes four free score reports.
There are other resources for low income families as well. You may be eligible for two fee-waivers for the SAT, so you'd be able to take the test a total of three times, if you don't get the score you want the first time.
Free Study Materials
The College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to provide free official SAT study materials for everyone (you'll just need to sign up for a free account). Make sure to do some practice with these materials if you're planning to take the new SAT.
In addition, your school may have teachers include some SAT prep in class or provide extra prep opportunities for those who want them.
No Effect on the Curve
Contrary to popular belief, when you take the test has no effect on your score. The SAT isn't really curved, at least not in the same way that your math test in class might be curved. Instead, your raw score (the number of questions you get right) on a section is "equated" into a scaled score (between 200 and 800), in a somewhat mysterious process based on the College Board's data and analysis. You aren't directly measured against the other people who take the same test as you.
If you're still not sure whether you want to take the SAT, try this quiz to see if you might be better at the ACT.
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Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.