Demand and Supply
For well over a decade, College Board has considered making a summer SAT a reality. The rise in EA/ED applications has increased the demand among students for testing (usually re-testing) that can be completed in plenty of time for early deadlines. ACT’s increasing prominence and its senior-friendly September date have clearly rankled the College Board. The problem with summer testing has never been in the concept but in the execution. Test centers depend on the kindness of host high schools for space, testing supervisors, and a ready source of available proctors. The incentives clearly grew large enough for College Board to solve these issues (perhaps). By setting the test date as close to possible to Labor Day, College Board clearly assumed that a sufficient number of schools would be coming back online after summer break. It even felt confident enough to offer Subject Tests in August, as well. Rising seniors rejoiced.
Last week (the end of April 2017), College Board went live with 2017-2018 SAT registration, and we could finally see where the August SAT would be offered. The results are a mixed bag. We have compiled data for the most populous states and metropolitan areas. For the top 12 states, we’ve plotted every center available in August and, for comparison, May 2017, June 2017, and October 2017. Traditionally, October has the largest number of centers (testing volume grows throughout the calendar year and crests in Oct/Nov.).
Mapping Thousands of Centers
We’ve converted the center data into interactive maps. You can zoom into a county or zoom out to the country (keep in mind, we’ve only uploaded data for 12 states). Toggle among test dates to see how the map changes. If you are in the New York / New Jersey area, you may want to first clear your desk of any breakables.
The data is based on the list of centers and is not a live update of centers marked as full. Students can use the maps as a helpful way of visualizing centers in their area, but they should immediately go to collegeboard.org for the latest information. Only during the registration process are full centers identified.
The maps use the Tableau data service, which is sometimes finicky. You can try reloading the page. If the interactive maps are unavailable, you can open these images to compare NY/NJ center availability in October to availability in August.
If you can register here, you can register anywhere.
New York and New Jersey students will have the hardest time scheduling summer testing. New York loses 80% of the centers it had open in June. New Jersey loses more than 60%. In terms of NYC proper, Manhattan has only 3 centers, and 1 is listed as full a few days after the SAT registration site went live. That’s nothing compared to Brooklyn, however, which has a single center in August versus more than a dozen for most test dates. The cruelest cut is that the center is already full. Students throughout the greater New York City area will be unable to take the August test or face lengthy commutes. The story is similar in upstate New York, with large swaths of white for August. [To be fair, ACT will avoid the entire state of New York when it introduces its July test in 2018 and already makes the February administration unavailable to students in the Empire State. This policy ties to New York’s test-takers’ rights legislation.]
Michigan gets no respect from its new partner.
Michigan has long been an “ACT state,” but College Board recently wrested away control of state-funded testing. Every student in Michigan participates in a School Day SAT in the spring. Despite the SAT’s inroads into Michigan, the state still has the lowest number of centers among the top 12. And it loses 60% of that number on the August date. There will be only 21 centers in the entire state. Michigan students hoping to retake the SAT after the state-funded spring testing may find limited options if they sign up early, and no options if they sign up late. If the interactive maps are unavailable, you can open these images to compare MI center availability in October to availability in August.
Avoiding the summer safari.
California falls in the middle of this group of states. It has one-third fewer centers available in August as in June or October. The San Francisco/San Jose area and the greater Los Angeles area lose roughly the same percentage of centers. Los Angeles has twice as many centers on most dates, but the areas are close to proportional once population is factored in. What is interesting about the Bay Area, though, is the number of centers already at capacity for June. As of April 30, about one-third (23 of 71) centers had no seats available for SAT w/Essay testers. No major metropolitan area came close to that level of early sellouts. Students should be making test plans soon and registering for summer or fall dates. If the interactive maps are unavailable, you can open these images to compare CA center availability in October to availability in August.
Comparing cities, not just states.
By going through the registration process dozens of times, Compass was also able to look at the top dozen metropolitan areas. Some areas, such as Atlanta, will actually see more August centers than they saw in June. A key unknown is how popular August will prove. If it is closer to June than to October, then there will be fewer capacity constraints. Many of the areas will be impacted, however, if students flock to the new date. Because this is the first year for August and many students are not aware of the date, we think that it will be smaller than October. That same lack of awareness, we fear, is why many students will try to register at the last minute. The metropolitan areas below are ordered by the total number of test centers in the June – October period.
My colleague Bruce Reed discusses why August is an ideal date for rising Seniors to test without the added stress of homework assignments. It also aligns well with the completion of summer preparation — whether done independently or with a class or tutor. Having August and October testing dates available allows for more flexibility when thinking about repeating Subject Tests or the SAT. August provides plenty of time to receive, review, and report scores before EA/ED applications. Students’ good intentions can easily fall apart, though, if no seats are available by the time they register for the SAT. Commuting to a far off center means not just allowing for added drive time, it means unfamiliar parking or drop-off locations, queueing areas, and even bathroom locations. Decreased sleep and increased anxiety is a bad recipe for SAT success.
Critics of year-round testing may bemoan the August SAT, but College Board should be commended for making another option available to students. While it scrapped the January SAT in the process, the trade-off was worthwhile. College Board still has work to do for 2018 to improve upon its initial efforts. Regularly turning away students counting on the August SAT or Subject Tests will sour any goodwill generated by the new date.