Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
I am confused about the SAT and the ACT. I have friends who have taken both tests and some say the ACT is easier. I’m a top student at Munster High School and thinking about taking the January 23 SAT, then taking it again in the spring. Under Score Choice I believe I have the option to take it as many times as I wish and only report the highest scores. I’ve read that most top colleges like Dartmouth or Princeton favor the SAT. The same goes for MIT and Caltech. But most of my friends plan only to take the ACT and don’t seem to think it makes any difference. I’m only a sophomore so I have plenty of time to decide. Can you help? Signed: Munster HS sophomore.
It sounds like you are planning ahead for college and that may be the most important answer to your question. Students who anticipate taking the SAT or the ACT generally score better because they have prepared for the tests. Which test is best for you to take is another issue. Both tests, the SAT and ACT are widely accepted by all colleges and universities in the U.S. The SAT is generally considered the most popular test if measured strictly by the numbers. But the ACT is not far behind and so it shouldn’t be ignored. I always recommend that student take both tests. Then pick the one you do the best on and send it in.
More specifically to answer your question I contacted Sujay Jayakar, a former Munster High School student, who took both tests and scored perfect on each: 2,400 SAT and 36 ACT. I wanted to know how he would answer your question since he was one of the top high school students in the country and is now a freshman at Cornell University. Here is his response:
“Most of my Munster friends greatly favored the ACT, because they said that the test was more based on "innate ability" than "memorized tricks." Given the amount of preparation I did for the SAT (2+ years) compared to the ACT (about a week), the charge is not without ground. The SAT seemed more "difficult," especially the critical reading section. Regardless of the intrinsic differences, the SAT definitely has a much bigger aura around it. Perhaps it's because it differentiates more (2400 vs. 36), or maybe because it is more nationally recognized.”
You are right that Score Choice lets you take the SAT as many times as you wish. You can be sure that students are preparing for the test like never before given that they are allowed to report the best results on any given date. Be careful not to confuse that to mean any combination of scores on any give date. The ACT has the same policy.
Most college, including Harvard and Yale, recognize both tests. That includes most of the highly rated state schools like: U.C. Berkeley, Georgia Tech, UCLA, UCSD and many more.
On the other hand, some very good colleges are dropping mandatory testing altogether and going test optional—something students may want to think about if they do not test well, but have top grades and still want to attended a competitive college. Holy Cross, Wake Forest and Mount Holyoke and over 800 other college fall into this category. See FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (Fairtest.org) for the latest listing.
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