Guest Blogger: The ACT is not the SAT
Posted 27 July 2011on:
Hi, guest blogger (and occasional college counselor) Tedd Roseberry here while my wife is away at a college admissions workshop this week.
She asked me to write about the ACT, since my college counseling job before coming to CCS involved a lot of ACT workshops and conferences. If the title of this post is pretty much all you know about the ACT, then keep reading. Here on the east coast, the ACT often lacks the star power of the SAT when it comes to college admissions tests. But the ACT is accepted by EVERY college in the nation, and in most states it is by far the preferred test taken by most college-bound seniors. In fact, ACT offers tests for several grade levels throughout the K-12 school experience. Some states even use these ACT tests the way Virginia uses SOLs to track student progress in public schools.
The reason they do this is the same reason YOU should seriously consider taking the ACT. The ACT tests what you’ve learned in school so far, and is backed up by a ton of ACT research on college readiness standards that align the test with the actual content in freshman-level college courses. So while the “A” in SAT stands for “Aptitude” (which is what the SAT measures), that’s not what the “A” in ACT stands for at all. The name “ACT” comes from “American College Testing,” and it’s kind of like a final exam for high school to show if you’re ready for the next level of classes–which will be your freshman year of college.
While the number two pencils and fill-in-the-bubble answer sheets are similar, the structure of the two tests is different. The SAT has two big sections–verbal and math–plus the writing section, which is still ignored by many schools. The ACT has four smaller sections: Math (60 min), Science (35 min), English (45 min), and Reading (35 min). There’s also an optional writing section (30 min), which some schools will use for placement in freshman composition courses, but many ignore. Each section measures the skills you need to master before attempting college-level work, and your score report will show exactly those areas where you do and do not stack up.
The scoring scale is completely different from the SAT. There’s no “perfect 800″ on a section. Each section is scored from 1-36, and a composite score is reported by averaging the four sections. Breaking 20 is a good start; breaking 30 means you’re ready for some of the more selective schools. A perfect 36 is nearly impossible, although some schools will pick and choose your best individual section scores if you take the test more than once.
Some schools also use the ACT to determine course placements, and many will use it (or the SAT) to determine eligibility for merit-based scholarships. Yes, it’s another long standardized test, and yes, it will take a big chunk of your Saturday–about four hours total. It’s also not free ($34 standard, or $49.50 with the optional writing section))–someone has to pay for all that research. But some students respond better to the ACT than they do to the SAT. Depending on your college dreams, even a small advantage can make a big difference. So why not give it a try?
Interested in learning more? Visit http://actstudent.org/. Would you like CCS to offer a workshop on the ACT, with a timed practice test? Let us know. You can respond to this (or any) post by clicking “Leave a Comment” under the title.
(Gee, that was pretty long, huh? Maybe my wife is right when she says I talk too much…!)