Let me start by saying that students applying during the 2015-2016 application cycle to start university in the US in Fall of 2016 are not affected by the changes to the SAT so no need to panic. But if you are considering applying the following year for Fall of 2017, you should pay attention.
The SAT, the most well-known standardized exam required for admission to many US colleges and universities, recently announced major changes as of Spring, 2016. The first new test date in the US is March of 2016, but the new SAT will not be offered internationally until May. Students generally take the exam more than one time to improve their results, typically starting the winter before they apply to university. That gives them time to retake the same exam in the spring and possibly fall before applications are due. If students take the SAT before spring 2016, they are taking a much different exam at later test dates.
Read this article for details about why no one should take the SAT in 2016, but the short summary is that there is a much safer alternative exam: the ACT. (For more background on these standardized exams, see this article about choosing between taking the SAT or the ACT.) Taking an exam that will basically be an unknown quantity is too risky when students almost always do better on these exams if they prepare ahead of time. High quality test prep materials and tutoring for the new SAT won’t likely be available until Fall of 2016.
Why You Should Take the ACT Instead
Although the ACT is not as widely known outside of the United States as the SAT, in recent years the number of students applying with the ACT has actually exceeded those with the SAT. In Switzerland, for example, the ACT seven different international schools offer the ACT during the 2014-2015 school year so the availability of test sites is not much different than for the SAT.
The exception to the advice to stick with the ACT is if a student really struggles with the time constraints of the ACT, which does require the student to work at a very fast pace. In that case the student should take a practice version of the SAT under time constraints to see if that is a more comfortable exam situation.
Please feel free to enter questions about this issue below – it is quite complicated and each student’s situation may be different.