Most common essay mistakes: Add more detail to your writing

In general, it is important to include details in your writing to give your ideas more impact and make your writing more interesting. This is especially important for personal narratives and persuasive essays. (Actually, it's hard to think of a type of writing, aside from perhaps a research paper, that wouldn't benefit from ample but relevant detail).

Can you hear the fizz?

Why are details so important? For one, your goal as a writer is to create a vivid image in your reader's mind so that your main points are made more forcefully. It is hard to do this with vague information.

Compare the following two samples of writing to see the difference:

(1) Although college is important for many people, it is not absolutely vital in all cases to become success or to reach one's goals. Bill Gates is an excellent example of someone who is not just successful, but also highly accomplished and influential in his field of work. Bill Gates famously dropped out of Harvard College, one of the most prestigious universities on the planet, to found a little software company called Microsoft in the 1970s. At one point, with a fortune of over $40 billion, Gates was the wealthiest human alive. While one could argue that Harvard played a pivotal role in Gates' later success, it is self-evident that the entire four-year undergraduate program at Harvard College was not necessary for Bill Gates.

Boy did you ever feel good when you were able to get something done on DOS.

Okay, now let's look at the same ideas expressed with less detail:

(2) It is not important to complete college in order to be successful. Take Bill Gates as an example. He didn't finish college, and now he is extremely wealthy, even though he doesn't have a college degree. Bill Gates had what it took to be successful, and he didn't need college at all.

Which sounds better to you? (1) of course! Why? Because it has more detail and is more specific. Try to do the same in your own writing as well.

Most common essay mistakes: Avoid using informal words, such as “stuff”

As you know, there are different levels or varieties of formality in language, including in writing and in speaking. (Note: The formality of English that I generally use to explain concepts is less formal than typical academic writing.)

For example, if you were hanging out with your friends, at some point in your conversation, you might say something like, "Yo, wassup? Whatcha thinking of doing today? I got a bunch of stuff I just gotta get done before I go out."

Of course this kind of speech if fine (and expected) for spoken English. But for formal writing, we all learn that we should avoid vague slang and informal language.

Short list of words that are too informal for academic essays

Here's a list of the words I most frequently see in my students' writing that I generally recommend they change:

  • kid
  • mom
  • dad
  • grandma
  • grandpa
  • stuff
  • a lot
  • a bunch
  • okay

You can probably guess how to change these words, but let me explain a bit more about each.

Why these words are considered informal

  • kid literally means juvenile goat (or juvenile sheep). And for some reason in English, we've decided that we should call our young people baby goats. But this doesn't mean we should carry this peculiarity over to our writing. I quite frequently see the word kid used in formal essays to refer to human children. Instead of kid, use child, girl, boy, etc.
  • mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa should be mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather, respectively. I think that's pretty straightforward–the former set represents the more affectionate language we use with family whereas the latter words are considered more formal.
  • stuff literally means material used as stuffing, such as what you put inside a pillow. In modern English, we use stuff to refer generally to things or other unspecified material or concepts, both concrete and abstract. But in writing, the word stuff is simply too vague and informal for this meaning.
  • a lot has several different meanings, such as the lot in drawing lots or a parking lot. We often use the word lot in informal English to mean much or many, which probably comes from the usage of the word lot to refer to a group of items, especially for sale. For example, visit eBay and search for a lot of fidget spinners, and you'll likely find people selling large numbers together. So, instead of a lot, use many, much, a plethora, myriad, etc.
  • a bunch literally refers to a group of the same kinds of things, such as a bunch of flowers, a bunch of bananas, or a bunch of grapes. In modern American English, we often use bunch to mean many. So, instead of writing that you have a bunch of ideas for how to raise money for the senior prom, just say you have many ideas.
  • guy is used in the US by most people to refer to men or older boys, and now in modern years, to all members of mixed-sex groups. In formal writing, you'd be better off using boy, teenager, man, etc.
  • lady sounds like it would be a nice way to refer to a woman, but it's safer just to say woman since lady technically refers to a woman with a certain status in society.
  • okay is one of my favorite words, and it's one of the best-known and most-used English words worldwide. But it's best used in speech and in informal writing. Try using a more precise word instead, such as acceptable or simply yes.
Will the real kids please stand up?

But how do I know?

Sometimes people aren't aware of which words are considered formal or informal. Fair enough–some of this truly is arbitrary.

One suggestion I've made that seems to help is to imagine which words you'd see on a government (or other) form you'd fill out–in the box where you put in the information about your parents, do you think you'd be more likely to see it labeled "Mother" or "Mom"? What about "Number of children in household" vs. "Number of kids in household"? It would be more common say use "Mother" and "Number of children in household" because this language is considered more formal (as well as more precise).

A few words that I didn't include

I'm keeping a mental list of words that I need to point out sometimes that I don't mention above.

Here's what I have now:

  • ton

Next steps

This is just a short list of a small set of words that I see most often in my students' writing. Of course, there are zillions more words that should be avoided as well.

But this list is a good start, and if you can take to heart the logic behind why these words don't quite fit in certain formal essays, you'll be one step closer to being a better writer.

Final note: Sometimes people ask me whether it's acceptable to use informal language when you're quoting the exact speech of someone. Of course! You can't go around changing people's words, so you should in fact (if the situation arises) use the quoted language exactly as it was spoken or written.

Most common SAT Essay mistakes: How to use the author’s name

When you're writing your SAT essay, you'll naturally need to make reference to the author or speaker throughout the essay. In my students' essays, I've seen many different ways of doing this, but there's really only one convention that we follow in college-level, formal writing in the US.

Handwritten SAT essay with comments (blurred for obfuscation)

Rule: In general, use the author's or speaker's full name the first time you need to mention her or him. After that, use her or his last name.

(Side note: Ugh. I wish I had a gender-neutral pronoun other than their.)

First, let's look at an example. Imagine you're reading an essay written by Zadie Smith about public libraries. You'll need to refer to her throughout your writing. (Note: The instructions state that Smith is a female; you should be sure to refer to her appropriately when you write.)

I have read essays with several different methods of referring to Smith. The first, and best, is simply to say "Smith." For example, "In her essay, Smith argues that public libraries are important centers of culture." This is the correct way–using Smith's last name (also referred to as the surname or family name).

Examples

Best: "Smith claims that libraries exist for altruistic reasons."

This is correct–here we use Smith's last name.

Avoid: "Zadie claims that libraries exist for altruistic reasons."

This is not standard. To my ears, when I hear this (or read it, as it were), I feel like the author is a friend of the writer.

This mistake isn't terribly common, but I do see it, so if you're using this format, you should know it's not considered standard for formal essays.

Avoid: "Zadie Smith claims that libraries exist for altruistic reasons."

I also see this form from time to time–using the writer's full name. We generally don't do this in formal writing mostly because it's just too time-consuming to write out the full name.

What about authors with titles? Or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

View of the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial and over the "I Have a Dream" inscription (in Washington, D.C.)

I have read many effective essays that use titles, such as Dr. Nip, Professor Nguyen, and of course, Dr. King.

In an SAT essay, this is acceptable in my opinion, though MLA and APA formats omit titles for in-text citations.

Final note: Be consistent, do your best

Finally, the cardinal rule, as always, is to be consistent. If you go back and forth between using the author's first name and last name, you'll appear inconsistent. Inconsistency shows an undesirable lack of control that also reduces credibility. ("Why should I believe what you're writing if you're just spouting out random words?")

That said, SAT essay readers are hired from pools of teachers, and every single educator I've known has tried to find the good in students' writing; if it appears that you're doing your best (under SAT's timed conditions) to cite the author, I think most teachers would be inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt.

August 25, 2018 SAT, a date which will live in infamy (in the history of College Board)

Summary: There are credible allegations that the Aug 25, 2018 SAT had been leaked to the Internet in 2017, meaning a large number of test-takers had already studied the questions in advance.

About the video: I was interviewed by ABC TV here in San Francisco about the SAT leak.

If you’re studying for the SAT now or have taken it recently, you’ve probably heard about the colossal failure on the part of College Board–the SAT given in August of 2018 was a repeat of an SAT given previously overseas.

To make matters worse, that test had apparently been “leaked” in PDF form to the Internet (probably as early as 2017), meaning that it was widely available to anyone who knew how or where to look for it. (I have never seen the test, but I have seen discussions online about it.)

College Board has a policy of not commenting on the “specifics of question usage and test administration schedules”, so this is all unconfirmed, but ample evidence supports the conclusion that it was the same SAT given in October 2017 in Asia.

Why it’s bad

I think it is fairly clear why reusing a large part or all of a previous SAT test is at best problematic and at worst massively unfair–those who have seen, taken, or practiced from that test before have an extreme advantage when taking the test.

One of the most common methods of studying is to take many practice tests and review them. If you’ve done your studying properly, you will see where you went wrong and remember your mistakes. If you happen to see that question again, or even a similar one, you should get that question right.

Furthermore, it is common in some places to “share” tests for studying purposes. In some cases, this “sharing” is done on a very large scale.

In a word, a very high number (but certainly not the majority) of students had seen, taken, and reviewed this particular test before they took it last August 25. But more students had not, and it is these students who are at a disadvantage.

How do we know that the SAT was leaked?

As I said above, College Board has not confirmed that the August 2018 SAT was recycled from October 2017, but there is simply too much anecdotal evidence showing that it was. Online, in the usual places, you can find people saying that they had seen the August test before.

A quick search of Twitter and Reddit shows:

📷

📷

And I’ve personally heard at least three different students tell me that someone in their test room last Saturday told them that they had seen the test before. For example, one test-taker announced, when the test was over and he was on his way out, that he had taken the test before, upon which the proctor politely dismissed the class except for that one test-taker. (Well done, sir!) Another student told me that, after the test, someone was showing people his copy of the test on his phone.

How do SATs get leaked?

Most people who take the SAT have never seen that test before. Or the questions on it.

However, that doesn’t mean that some people somewhere don’t have access to a particular test beforehand. In fact, there are entire operations devoted to getting copies of these tests or “reconstructing” them after they’re administered.

Here are the common ways that SATs (as well as a few other high-stakes tests) are compromised:

  • A corrupt proctor steals a test or copies it during the administration of the test.
  • Huge numbers of students take an official SAT; each is assigned a section to memorize and then recreate later that day back at the lair of the company that organized the group.
  • A test-taker will covertly photograph pages of the test.
  • A test-taker in one time zone will contact another test-taker elsewhere to divulge parts of the SAT.

For the record, I have not seen this happen anywhere in San Francisco, nor do I know anyone who has engaged in this sort of activity. But it does occur in some places.

What will College Board do?

This is turning out to be a public relations disaster for the nonprofit College Board. Especially after the controversy of the June SAT (that one was too easy, resulting in lower-than-expected scores), College Board needed to deliver a hitch-free testing experience in August. That didn’t happen.

College Board, again, is neither confirming nor denying the reuse of the test. However, they are stating that they will scrutinize the test answer sheets to find cheaters (my term, not theirs). This is actually standard practice for the College Board, but you can bet that they will be especially cautious for this test administration.

As of now, College Board is maintaining that nothing will change, and scores will be released as scheduled on Sep 7, 2018.

Some students fear that their scores will be canceled. (That's the rumor going around amongst the high school kids.) I honestly cannot envision that happening—there's simply too much at stake for too many people, and College Board can't just cancel the scores of the 200,000-300,000 people who took the SAT in August.

How does College Board determine cheating?

How does College Board decide that someone had previous access to the test? There are several ways that I have heard of over the years. First, College Board will look at your previous SAT or PSAT scores if you have them. If your score improvement is significant, College Board may decide to withhold your scores while they investigate further. In this case, you will get a notification from College Board informing you that they are going to examine your scores more closely.

The second method that I’ve heard about (and this was a while ago, so this may not happen any longer) is that College Board will compare your answers with those seated next to you. Presumably, if there’s too close a match, one of you will be suspect.

I can speculate on a third method, but it makes sense to me—a close analysis of your performance would indicate how you typically fare on certain question types. For example, if your weakness is permutations in math or inference questions in reading, and you suddely jump in those question types, your answer set may get flagged. Of course, if August was your first sitting of the test, this method would not work. (And again, I am only surmising here.)

So in terms of numbers, what sort of increase could trigger this warning? In the past, our students who have raised their scores about 500 points (yes, it’s possible with hard work) have been singled out. Fortunately, in all but one case, the students later had their scores released. (For the one whose scores were not released, the student admitted to me that he had had some sort of unfair advantage.)

In the end, however, no matter what College Board says, there will almost certainly be people who did not cheat who have their scores canceled and conversely, those who did who don’t get flagged.

The worst-case scenario and what to expect

If you’ve never taken the SAT or PSAT before, and you didn’t have access to the test beforehand, you should be safe.

However, if the following apply to you, you need to be prepared:

  • You’ve taken the PSAT or SAT before before, and you studied really, really hard for the August test and had a good chance of raising your score. In other words, if you have a big (but legitimate) jump in scores between administrations, you may become suspect.
  • You took the PSAT before and didn’t really try very hard, and in August, your score jumped.

Consequences—in the past, both with the SAT and other tests I’ve coached (GMAT, GRE, and TOEFL), the following could happen:

  • A suspect set of responses could be withheld and then released as usual.
  • A suspect set of responses could be withheld permanently, after which:
    • A student could be offered the chance to retake the SAT; presumably if the score is close, the student can keep her score (perhaps the higher score?).
    • A student’s scores could be canceled, and the student barred indefinitely from ever taking the SAT.

I’ve not heard of the last situation, neither with our students nor with students I’ve read about. However, there was a GMAT mini-scandal some years ago in which a handful of test-takers were banned from ever taking the GMAT again. (Please note that College Board is not associated with the GMAT in any way.)

Of course, if someone is prohibited from taking the SAT, he can just take the ACT instead. Or apply to U Chicago!

Why did College Board resuse the test?

College Board has largely remained mum on the subject, but has spoken about the need to reuse questions in the past, but not an entire test. The reason for reusing questions would be to cut costs—I’ve seen an estimate online that estimated that it could take up to 30 months and cost up to $1 million to prepare a single SAT test. College Board has also said that they can’t just whip up a new test in short order; presumably, it’s a lengthy process that needs to be planned far in advance.

While reusing a single test item or a handful is perhaps excusable, the reuse of an entire test is not. To make matters worse, as stated previously, this test was readily available online. (Note: A lot of people are stating that it was available only in Asia. I’d like to point out that if it’s on the Internet in Asia, it’s also online outside of Asia. Plenty of students outside of Asia had access to it.)

A reporter asked me why College Board would reuse an entire test. I’ll tell you the same thing I told her—no one but College Board knows for sure. However, my educated guess is that they were aware of the situation but could not reasonably cobble together an entire SAT in time to administer a new SAT in August. In this scenario, the alternative would have been to put out a sloppy, under-edited test, which would likely have put College Board in a very unfavorable situation. At least in this case, College Board can blame illicit behavior on some unknown bad actor.

I saw an old comment from College Board online that said that if they did use a new test for every administration, the cost of the SAT could double. People already complain about the SAT testing fees, so College Board is probably not too keen on raising that fee. I do know that the GMAT and GRE cost $250 and $205 respectively to take, so the SAT’s fee of $47.50 sure does seem inexpensive by comparison.

What will happen in the future?

For sure, the security of the SAT will increase in the future. College Board is already shipping some tests to certain testing sites in locked containers. This may mean more security while taking the test as well, though in this particular situation, that wouldn’t have helped a whit.

I can also only imagine College Board will attempt to speed up the process of moving the SAT to computer, which would be a massive undertaking and frankly, perhaps not feasible for the numbers involved with the SAT. For most of you reading this now, if the SAT moves to a computer-based test, it will likely happen long after you’re in college and are finished with the SAT stage of your lives. (I remember some rumors of moving the SAT to computer around 2000.)

It is also possible that universities will start requiring their own admissions tests; the University of California discussed this at some point back in 2001 (which was one of the reasons the SAT changed in 2005).

What will TestMagic do?

If you prepped with us for the August test, and you need to retake it, we’ve got your back! This applies to both students in our group classes and doing one-to-one tutoring with us. Just get in touch, and we’ll get you sorted.

Final thoughts

This story is still unfolding and there will surely be protests, petitions, complaints, and changes to come. We’ll keep you updated, and we also ask that you also get back to us if you’re one of our students. We’re here to help.

see vs watch – Why are so many people making this grammar mistake?

Summary: You see a movie at a movie theater; you watch a movie at home.
English grammar question--see vs watch
What’s the difference between SEEING a movie and WATCHING a movie?

When I first started teaching English some twenty-five years ago, a constant area to cover in a lesson at some point was the difference between seeing and watching, for example, seeing a movie and watching a movie. Most of the English books that we teachers used in our classes had at least one unit devoted to covering the topic. Other books also explained the related difference between hearing something and listening to something. In classes, we generally described the difference simply like this: You see a movie in a theater, and you watch a movie at home. Or to put it differently, you saw a movie on a large screen and watched a movie at home on a small television set (for example, with a VCR (a very old device used to play videotapes)). Remember, this was at a time when only the wealthy owned large-screen TVs and DVDs did not even exist, so the distinction between the two types of screen was quite a marked one and was therefore all the easier to explain.

The grammar rule: see vs watch

For those students who were more curious and had more questions, I would typically explain that seeing a movie had something to do with the larger screen typically found only in cinemas, which created a more immersive experience. Watching seemed to be a more deliberate, active activity – one had to make a conscious effort to watch something, whereas seeing something was slightly more passive, as if it were occurring before your eyes and you happened to see it. My students seemed to accept this explanation unquestioningly, even if the distinction seemed an unnecessary one.

I never noticed native speakers of English making this mistake, and it was taken as a given that this distinction was an important one, though one that wasn’t completely necessary for the most basic level of communication. So imagine my surprise when I started to notice, some twenty years later, native speakers making this error. In fact, at least among the group that I teach – high school students in San Francisco – the dominant usage is to watch a movie; rarely do I hear students saying that they are going to see a movie.

Complicating things is the fact that home screens are getting larger, and many of the smaller independent cinemas, at least in San Francisco, seem to be quite small in comparison with the stadium-seating in the giant multiplex cinemas, so it could be argued that the home experience, especially if you throw into the mix a $5000 home theater system, is just as immersive, if not more so, as the one in some movie theaters.

It is also completely possible that the language is changing, and the distinction between watching and seeing is disappearing; it certainly seems that way among many of the people I know and interact with. However, if you’re a traditionalist, a purist, or dare I say even a prescriptivist, we see a movie at the theater and watch a movie at home.

On a related point – we typically also see (not watch) other related visual arts– we see plays, we see performances, and we see recitals.

Finally, in a few days I should be able to upload a see vs watch grammar worksheet in our new Worksheets section, if you’d like to test yourself or your students.

UC Application Essay Questions Stay the Same for Fall of 2015

Prompts for the UC personal statements remain unchanged for prospective students applying in the Fall of 2015.
Summary of the UC application personal statements
A summary of the UC application personal statements.

As summer slowly comes to its end, upcoming high school seniors begin to think about their college applications and how they’ll set themselves apart from other students. One way to stand out from the crowd is through the personal statement(s).

This year’s UC essay prompts

Those who will be applying to the University of California (UC) colleges will be glad to hear that the essay prompts this year are the same as the ones from the previous year. The first essay prompt is: “Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.” And the second essay prompt is: “Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?”

Students may get a head start and work on their statements now. They must keep in mind that both essays must add up to a maximum of 1,000 words total and it is recommended that each essay be at least 250 long.

For more information about the UC application personal statements, visit the official UC admissions page about personal statements.

College Board SAT Practice App–where is it?

Summary: The College Board “SAT Practice App” is not yet available for download; it is scheduled for launch in September, 2015. (Source)

Photo of a student's hand filling in multiple choice bubbles.

If you have the new College Board SAT prep book, you may have noticed that there is now an option to score your test electronically using the College Board SAT Practice app.

However, if you follow the link to sat.org/scoring (found on the new answer sheets), there is as of yet no mention of this app. More confusing–a search on the iTunes App Store reveals nothing, either. (The closest thing is the SAT question of the day app.)

So, how to download the SAT Practice App?

So what’s up with the app? And what will the app do? Well, it appears that the app will allow you to take a picture of your practice exam and grade your test using the resulting image. Khan Academy has also said that they hope to continue development on the app so that it integrates with the SAT prep program that they are offering with Collegeboard. However, for this app we will have to wait:  The College Board has said that the app will not be available until September 2015.

Free repeat of SAT in October for June test-takers

Summary: If you took the SAT Reasoning Test in June of 2015, you are entitled to a free retake of the SAT in October, 2015.
College Board announced that students who took the misprinted SAT on June 6th, 2015 are eligible for a free retake of the test in October 2015.

In response to the recent misprint in the June 6th, 2015 official SAT exam, the College Board has offered a free retake of the test to those who were affected by the error. The College Board has decided to “[waive] the fee for the October SAT administration” after they received numerous calls from upset students and parents about the timing mistake. The testing company has yet to specify how students can register for the free retake, nor whether students will have the option to nullify their June scores.

Hanaki Sato, a rising senior at George Washington High School, says that the College Board is being “very responsible.” But at the same time, she doesn’t “know what else College Board could’ve done about [the error].”

While it’s good news that students have another chance at tackling the SAT, they also need to be careful not to take the test more than three times, which is often the recommended number of attempts for the exam. The additional attempt may or may not affect students negatively, so it’s best for them to contact the colleges of their choice to make sure taking the October test doesn’t hurt their chances of acceptance.

College Board’s official response: https://lp.collegeboard.org/information-regarding-the-saturday-june-6-sat-administration

June SAT-takers–your test scores will NOT be canceled

Problems on Sections 8 or 9 of the SAT last Saturday
Problems on Sections 8 or 9 of the SAT last Saturday have prompted College Board to nullify scores from the affected sections.

An additional five minutes spent studying for a test may not seem like that big a deal;  an additional five minutes spent on one of the most important, timed college entrance exams for U.S. colleges, on the other hand, has led to the nullification of part of almost half a million SAT tests.

On Saturday, June 6th, 2015 students all around the world sat for the official SAT. The official SAT booklets all contained a significant misprint–in the students’ test booklets, Section 8 or Section 9 (depending on the version of the test), incorrectly allotted 25 minutes for students to complete those sections. The correct time allotment of 20 minutes, however, was written on the proctor’s script and manual, which created confusion for the test takers as well as the proctors.

One student from George Washington High School recalls that some of the test takers in her room worked on Section 9 during the 25-minute period for Section 8, due to different versions of the test, because they “all wanted equal time” and that the proctor “went with it” since he wasn’t sure about the situation either.

Students and families were also confused about whether or not their scores would be affected by the mistake. William Ju, a student at TestMagic, says, “My family [was annoyed]. They kept asking if the deletion [would affect] me negatively or positively.”

One student from Long Island, New York went as far as to sue the College Board and the Educational Testing Service for the mistimed sections of the SAT. She is charging them for alleging breach of contract and negligence and claims that there was monetary damage to those who took the misprinted exam. The nonprofit organization has yet to provide a response about this case.

College Board’s official statement regarding the printing error originally said that the mistimed sections, Section 8 or Section 9, would not be scored; however, as of June 18th, the company decided that neither sections will be scored–regardless of which version of the test the student took. Defending the quality of the SAT, College Board stated, “We have deliberately constructed each test to include three equal sections with roughly the same level of difficulty. If one of the three sections is jeopardized, the correlation among sections is sufficient to be able to deliver reliable scores.”

The final scores are still valid and can be sent to college for consideration, but after receiving many calls from upset students and parents about retaking the test for free or receiving a refund, College Board is agreeing to waive the fee of the October test for those who were “negatively affected by the printing error” and who register by September 3, 2015.

College Board’s official response: https://lp.collegeboard.org/information-regarding-the-saturday-june-6-sat-administration

Will the University of California accept old SAT scores for the class of 2017?

Summary: No official announcement from the UCs yet: The University of California has not yet made an official decision about whether it will accept for admissions only the new SAT scores or both the current SAT and the new SAT scores. However, we can’t imagine why they would not accept both the 2005 (2400-point scale) SAT and the 2016 (1600-point scale) SAT, as many colleges have already announced that they will accept both.

If you’re a high school student in the class of 2017, you may be wondering whether you should take the current format of the SAT (which debuted in March, 2005 and is scored on a 2400-point scale) or the new format of the SAT (scheduled to launch in 2016 and scored on a 1600-point scale). It’s a good question.

Our official recommendation for most students is that they should take not just the current version of the SAT and be prepared to take the 2016 SAT, but also the ACT. Granted this is a lot of tests to prep for, and many students will simply not have the time. But for those of us who work with students every day to help them get their college applications in order, we frequently see distinct differences in scores among the various tests available. So, if it’s at all possible, please consider taking two or three of the tests available to you.

However, it is also important to know whether the UCs will even accept the 2005 (2400-point scale) SAT, since you wouldn’t want to prep for it and take it for no reason. To find out, we recently emailed the UC Admissions department to find out. We received a prompt reply basically saying that they had not made an official decision yet, and please check back on their admissions website in the future to find out.

What about other colleges and universities? Stanford has announced that they will accept both; so has Harvard.

On a related note, the University of California has announced that the essay portion of the 2016 SAT will be required for admission.