Standardized Tests & College Admissions
Parents often ask how important are standardized college test scores. The importance of the SAT or ACT scores should not be underestimated. Colleges certainly take many factors into consideration when they make an admissions decision, but scores on the ACT or SAT give them the easiest tool with which to compare students.
Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer for a moment. Which should you value more: Applicant A's semester in France or Applicant B's solo performance in the all-state symphony? It's a hard call. But a 34 on the ACT is undeniably more impressive than a 28.
2023 Digital SAT
College Board is completely scrapping the current SAT, redesigned in 2016, in favor of a digital version. This is not simply the current test taken online. It is an entirely different test. Most students will not take this new version until March 9, 2024; however, all tests after that will be this new version.
Optional Writing Sections Eliminated
As of 2021, both the ACT and SAT have dropped the optional written essay portion of the exam. In 2020, fewer than 10 institutions had required or recommended that students submit essay scores for admissions or placement purposes, so this change was inevitable. Most schools had already transitioned away from the SAT and ACT essay in favor of the college entrance essay. I strongly recommend that once students take either the SAT or ACT (or both), they place their focus on preparing their common app college entrance essay as well as their choice schools' specific college entrance essay prompts. I have considerable experience assisting students with college entrance essays.
Which Test Should I Take?
Many students and parents begin the college prep process
by comparing the ACT and SAT.
Two of the most common questions they ask are:
- Is the ACT easier than the SAT?
- Do colleges prefer scores from the SAT or ACT?
The SAT and ACT generally test the same types of content. Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions and merit-based scholarships. The difficulty level of each test depends a great deal on the individual student. Colleges don't prefer one test over the other, so explore both tests to decide which one is right for you.
Preparing for the ACT and SAT
As a general rule, students should begin the preparation process as early as possible. There is no one rule for everyone, of course, but little will be gained by trying to "cram" the week of the exam. A recent article posted on the About Education website states, "Months are reserved for studying huge life-altering tests like the SAT and ACT."
Most test experts recommend that students spend at least three months preparing for the SAT and ACT. Consistent weekly practice using a variety of testing materials will result in significantly higher scores.