Should you take the ACT or the SAT, and new score policy explanation

After the past few posts on test scores, I’m pretty bored with the subject. Nevertheless, amid reports that ACT scores are down this year (overstated – they’re just down 0.1, and that’s equal to 2006 scores), I hear again the question about whether the SAT or the ACT is better. Before I answer, I’ll remind readers that, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m on the Virginia and DC/Maryland ACT executive boards. I receive no compensation from either testing service.

With that out of the way: For those unfamiliar, the ACT includes science and social science sections, and their writing test is optional. There are a bunch of theories about gender, about students who do better in algebra vs. geometry, and about different learning styles each determining which test you should take. I haven’t found any studies that take a look at the subject, let alone any conclusive findings.

There are very few, if any, competitive institutions left that prefer one test or other. All institutions will use your best score, which brings up a key side point. SAT has introduced new stress into the process with a new score policy. They sent me the explanation below:
“Designed to relieve student stress and improve the test-day experience, this new SAT® score-reporting feature provides students the opportunity to select which scores they send to colleges by test date for the SAT and by individual test for SAT Subject Tests™. Students can send any or all scores to a college on a single report. It will not cost more to send one, multiple or all test scores, and students can easily sign up through the Web.

The new score-reporting feature will launch in Spring 2009 for all students. Starting with the class of 2010, this feature will help lessen the anxiety associated with testing, and allow students to put their best foot forward on test day. For more information on the new score-reporting policy, please click here.”

I don’t think this “will help lessen the anxiety associate with testing.” I think it will lead to students taking more tests, and stressing about which scores to send. I’ve said it before – bad scores are very very very very unlikely to hurt you in the process. Universities want to use your best scores. We realy don’t care if you got there by some kind of test prep help, or practicing, or if you drank a magic potion that gave you mystical “SAT powers”. Better test scores make colleges look better, so we use your best ones, even if you send us dozens.

With most students I ecnourage them to try both the SAT and ACT, and focus on whichever one they feel like they will score best. Some students that know they’re going to schools that aren’t using the writing tests have been showing love for the ACT since you can opt out of taking the writing portion, which sounds good to me.

Regardless, read through the last few posts and their related comments, and keep in mind that the test scores are FAR less important than your academic performance, and that there are schools (Go Mason!) that offer score optional admission paths. And remember to send a thank you to those nice people from the Collegeboard for trying to lessen your stress…right after you finish taking their mandatory writing test. Be seeing you.


5 Responses

  1. When you have the SAT send your scores to a college, do they send both the reasoning and the subject tests you’ve taken, or do you have to have each (the reasoning and the subject scores) sent separately?

  2. Your site has won a Blog of the Day Award (BOTDA)

    Award Code

    Thank you,

    Bill Austin

  3. My understanding is that ETS/Collegeboard sends all scores from whatever sitting you forward, so you can’t pick and choose which we get. But, as I said, it really doesn’t matter since WE’LL pick and choose and only choose the BEST scores.

    Also – got a BOTDA!!! Woot! I’d like to thank the academy, and all the little people. Mostly Emily, who has to edit my blather 🙂

  4. u guys are f***ing stupid

    • please note – I took the liberty of editing the note from the anonymous poster above, as the language might have been considered a tad unsuitable for the context. Nevertheless, I did not want readers to miss out on the genius of the poster’s eloquence as he or she seeks to highlight what is clearly a strong internal struggle. To that poster I say I am rubber, and you’re glue, in hopes that he or she, with such clear brilliance, can infer the rest.

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