Which of the following is true: A. College admissions tests are the most important factor in college admissions; B. The SAT is the same as the ACT; C. All colleges require either the SAT or ACT for admission; D. None of the above. If you answered D, congratulations! You are savvy about the myths surrounding these standardized tests. If you answered incorrectly, read on.
While the SAT is the most commonly recognized college admissions test, the ACT is rapidly gaining in popularity, and is accepted in lieu of the SAT at most colleges and universities. Although these entrance exams are treated equally, there are several important differences between them.
The SAT provides scores for Critical Reading, Math and Writing on a scale ranging from 200 to 800, a "perfect" score. The math portion covers material up to ninth grade basic geometry and the reading section emphasizes vocabulary.
A third writing section was added in 2005 but, as of now, most colleges don't consider this in their admissions decisions. In general, the SAT is a test of strategy and testmanship and those who are inherently skilled at multiple choice tests have an advantage.
The ACT is comprised of 4 sections: English, which emphasizes grammar; Math, which covers material through trigonometry; Reading; and Science Reasoning. There is also an optional writing section. Scores between 1 and 36 are given for each section and a composite score is derived using the same scale. Unlike the SAT, the ACT is a test of time management skills and academic achievement or studiousness. In short, ACT is a more curriculum-based test where students demonstrate their mastery of the material while the SAT measures that their inherent aptitude and skillful test-taking strategies can make a difference.
Most college-bound students take these entrance exams more than once in an effort to improve their scores. While the ACT has always offered test takers the opportunity to submit only those scores they wish colleges to see, as of March 2009, the College Board will also be offering Score Choice for the SAT for the Class of 2010. In both cases, scores for every section of the test must be sent for each test administration - students are not allowed to pick and choose their highest scores across test dates. Further, not all colleges will observe the Score Choice option. More information about this new policy is availabl e at http://professionals.collegeboard.com/testing/sat-reasoning/scores/policy.
Despite all the chatter surrounding college admissions tests, it is important to note that nearly 20 percent of all four-year colleges are "test optional" and don't require these tests for admissions. A current list of test optional schools is available at www.FairTest.org.
While standardized tests can play a role in admissions, in most cases it is not the most weighty piece of the application. Their role is to provide an "external reality" to the application by creating a uniform and consistent measure of academic aptitude and ability. While each college and university will determine the extent to which standardized test scores will factor into their admissions decisions, in most cases a student's high school transcript is the most important piece of their application.
So, do prepare for standardized tests, but keep their role in in perspective.
Reprinted with permission from Metrowest Daily News.