As a parent, you may be wondering how to determine whether the new SAT or ACT is better suited for your college-bound child. The answer is easy: just have them take a simulated, proctored test for both and see which results in the better score. Since most colleges accept either the SAT or the ACT, there is no advantage to taking one over the other; it all depends on the student’s comfort level and starting scores for each test.
However, there are a few variables to keep in mind. First, there are a limited number of realistic practice versions of the new SAT test to take. The College Board, which administers the SAT, has published a few practice tests, which are available on line or in book format. Yet much of the general public is still waiting to see a copy of the official test. Students can purchase test preparation materials from various companies including McGraw-Hill, Kaplan, and The Princeton Review, but how reliable are those materials compared to the SAT test students are now taking? As for the ACT, there is a wealth of current materials available. Most test prep companies are able to access copies of the official tests, which are given in April, June and December.
It is the structural predictability of the ACT test that is also very comforting to most students. The ACT’s format is always the same: one section each for English, Math, Reading, and Science, as well as the optional essay. In its previous arrangement, the old SAT test jumped from section to section without any sense of consistency, while the new SAT is arranged similarly to the ACT. Because more students started taking the ACT over the SAT in the past decade, the College Board decided to change its format because it was losing market share to the ACT. Not surprisingly, the new SAT looks more like the ACT, especially on the verbal portion of the test.
The new SAT is still a novelty, but based on the data accumulated (50 students who have taken the new SAT in March and May), the results show the Math scores were lower than the verbal scores for 70 percent of the student sample. This can be attributed to the new “no calculator section” in the Mathematics portion of the test. Most students have become extremely dependent on a scientific or graphing calculator, so the manual math section is very challenging.
Considering the new SAT is only in its nascent stages, it is hard to determine which test is better (or even fairer, for that matter). Nevertheless, the only way to determine the better fit is to take a sample test for both and go from there.
Even if your children start preparing for either the new SAT or the ACT, they can always transition to the other test if they are not happy with their scores. The key is devoting time and resources to preparation for the chosen test.
Steven Rossner is the founder and president of SAT/ACT Sense (www.satactsense.com), which has successfully helped hundreds of students prepare for the SAT and ACT exams since 2008. Steven may be contacted by phone at 516-509-3186 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.