It’s already that time of the year when sophomores and juniors are taking their ACT or SAT college entrance tests and seniors are submitting college applications. Whether a freshman, sophomore or junior, a college entrance exam may be in one’s academic future. It’s important to understand both tests so that one can decide between the two and decide which one will best suit them and increase their chances of attending an ideal college.
An entrance exam, whether ACT or SAT, is one of several components in a student’s college application. Most colleges prefer to gather a holistic view of students rather than select students solely based on their GPAs or test scores. Thus, colleges admire students who are well-rounded, participating in clubs and activities, passionate about certain hobbies and distinguishing themselves through any other means from the rest of the crowd.
Colleges require test scores for many reasons. Chief among these reasons is so they can use scores to narrow down their decision, especially for more prestigious universities that receive thousands upon thousands of applicants each year.
But which test is right for a specific individual?
Both the SAT and the ACT have their pros and cons, and it’s incredibly important to understand how they differ. The first evident difference between the tests is that each test is graded on a different scale. The SAT is scored on a scale from 400 to 1600, whereas the ACT is given a composite score out of a total of 36.
Another difference that sets the two tests apart is their content. The ACT has an added science portion of the test, which can be helpful for students who excel in scientific subjects. The ACT lasts up to two hours and 55 minutes, while the SAT is three hours and 45 minutes. The difficulty level varies as well, as the SAT is focused on logic and reasoning while the ACT is more straight-forward and knowledge based. A possible strategy for determining where one’s strengths lie would be to take both the PreSAT and PreACT, and from there settle on which test is more suited toward one’s individual strengths.
Recently, the ACT has announced that they’ve made revisions to the test. Anemona Hartocollis of the New York Times compiled a comprehensive report on the ACT’s recent modifications.
“Students who want to improve their scores would be able to retake single sections of the five-part test, which lasts about three hours, instead of sitting for all of them again,” Hartocollis said. “The change would allow students to avoid getting worse marks on sections they had taken earlier.”
This change has the potential to relieve some of the stress that students hold while testing.
Students commit a fairly substantial amount of time to studying for these tests and are pressured to score satisfactorily for colleges to consider them. Assessment of student scores by college admissions has been debated intermittently.
“The new policy comes as educators, students and parents debate the role of standardized testing in college admissions and whether it is an appropriate measure of student ability or worsens persistent social inequities,” Hartocollis said. “A growing number of colleges and universities have made test scores an optional part of applications.”
Taking this into consideration, the College Board is experimenting with different test-taking methods that could alleviate student stress. The ACT changes will be applicable starting the fall of 2020. The College Board is offering test-taking online and as a paper version to accommodate different preferences and produce results faster.
Another modification is that the College Board will superscore the ACT test, as explained on the official ACT website. Superscoring allows students to submit their highest scores in each sub-category of the test for college admission and scholarship purposes. The Superscore is a recalculation which shows the highest possible composite score across multiple ACT tests and ACT section retests.