The short answer is it depends…
because each test highlights different strengths.
Within the last 15 years, the ACT (American College Test) has become more popular with college bound students than those choosing the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). The reason for this is the ACT tests student knowledge based on curriculum taught in high schools. In contrast, the SAT focuses more heavily on critical thinking skills.
The CollegeBoard, creators of the SAT realized it was losing customers to ACT and created a new version of the SAT. This more user-friendly exam has introduced “words in context,” in lieu of students having to memorize obscure vocabulary words they may never use again. This new technique allows students to take an educated guess of an unknown word.
Which Test Should I Take?
As a general rule, students that are strong in verbal skills: English, grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension score higher on the ACT whereas those students stronger in math score higher on the SAT. Additionally one-third of the SAT has a math section whereas the ACT math section is only one-quarter of the exam.
The good news is, colleges will take either the SAT or the ACT as a marker of college readiness. I recommend taking a practice test for the SAT and the ACT to determine which test is preferred by the student. There are numerous testing companies that will offer free test practice such as Kaplan for the ACT and free SAT at Khan Academy
So, I Don’t Have to Take a Test?
There are numerous colleges that allow students to “opt-out” of submitting their test scores and, instead, will write an additional essay or supplement or upload a creative work.
Go to the Fair Test site for a complete and up to date listing of test optional schools.
And remember, the college entrance exam is only one portion of the college application. Students have far more control over other factors in their applications…more on that in my next blog!