Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tutor Doctor Longmont: SAT and ACT tests: the Rise (and Why) in Taking Both

Testing, Testing

More Students Are Taking Both the ACT and SAT 

AS if applying to college isn’t taxing enough, the process seems to have been ratcheted up another notch. Ambitious high school students are no longer content with just one college admissions test. Not a single college requires it, but many applicants to the nation’s most selective colleges and universities are taking — and retaking — both the ACT and the SAT.

For more than half a century, the ACT was the also-ran of the college admissions world. Although almost every college for years has accepted either test, the SAT has long represented the gold standard. Some Eastern colleges actually frowned on the ACT, and few students outside the South and the Midwest, where the ACT has been the dominant assessment, would even consider taking it.

In fact, the ACT has pulled ahead for the first time: 1,666,017 students took the ACT last year; 1,664,479 took the SAT.
It’s not that the SAT is losing customers. On the contrary, the number of test takers has grown. It’s that the ACT is growing much faster, in part because 12 states now require, and pay for, all public high school juniors to take the test.  This included Colorado. Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming require students to take the test, and Arkansas pays for the ACT if districts want to offer it. The SAT has only Delaware, Idaho and MaineThere is also a real shift in the behavior of top high school students, with many more choosing to work toward impressive scores on both tests.

Some schools have 10th graders try the Preliminary SAT but also PLAN, the ACT version, to see which yields a better score and thus which to prep for. The following summer, serious test preparation starts. Whether reviewing on their own, in classes or with a private tutor, a considerable chunk of the next year and a half is devoted to vocabulary lists, problem sets, mock tests, real tests and retests; Advanced Placement and SAT subject tests add to the workload..
There are clear differences between the tests. The ACT has four long sections, the SAT 10 shorter ones. The ACT has a science section and covers more advanced math, including trigonometry. 
Speed is more of an issue on the ACT,  with many students finding that they do not have enough time to work through all the questions (the ACT allows only 45 minutes for 75 English questions and 35 minutes for 40 reading questions, while the SAT gives 70 minutes for 67 reading questions and 35 minutes for 49 writing questions).
Jonathan Chiu, the national content director of high school programs at the Princeton Review, offers a similar analysis, citing gamesmanship in taking the SAT. “ACT is more straightforward in their question construction,” he said. “In math, they give you the information you need and tell you to solve for x. The SAT would give you the information, then ask for the value of 1/x. But since you’re going to have to solve for x to get there, they’ll make the value of x a possible answer, knowing your eyes will go straight to the number you’ve just figured out.”

“The tests predict college performance equally well, and despite urban legend, most people do about as well on one as on the other,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid.
“We see a lot of test results between the ACT, the SAT, the subject tests, Advanced Placement and the International Baccalaureate,” he added, “so it doesn’t concern us at all whether students send the SAT, the ACT or both.”

Need to score better on the SAT or ACT test?  Did not do as well as you had hoped on your practice test?   Do you need a better GPA for college?  contact  Tutor Doctor Longmont today for a FREE consultation to show you how we can help.

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