With just a few SAT (www.collegeboard.org) and ACT (www.act.org) standardized test dates remaining this school year, and a whole group of underclassmen surely getting prepped to begin taking these admissions exams next year, we here at Pay4SchoolStuff.com thought now might be an excellent time to discuss some issues surrounding the preparations and strategies for standardized test preparation, and the role it plays in your child’s current and future education.
It goes without saying that, while most students dread standardized testing and some even struggle with the test anxiety that comes with these situations, the emphasis in recent years on statewide accountability and national norms in reading and math, and the implementation of the federal Common Core Standards, have made testing a fact of life in almost every state. Students in both public and private schools begin taking standardized tests in kindergarten or first grade, and from then on tests are given greater emphasis and the stakes are higher as they progress through school. The national and state benchmarks established for school districts to strive for, which are tied to school funding formulas, do serve to increase educator, school administrator, parent and student anxiety. Most states now require certain scores on statewide tests in order to graduate from high school. And as a continuing factor in college admissions decisions, the SAT and ACT scores combined with other criteria help determine whether even the brightest students get into the colleges they desire.
The debate rages over whether college admissions exams are a valid predictor of a student’s performance in college. Studies have in fact shown that the SAT correlates more highly with family income than being a true measure of aptitude or potential, and that students with good high school grades did well in college, despite weak SAT scores, while students with weaker high school grades, even with strong SAT scores, did less well in college. Students who didn’t submit SAT test scores were more likely to be minority students, women, Pell grant recipients, or the first in their families to go to college. It is for these and other reasons that some universities have decided on a score-optional policy, but 80% of four-year colleges still require either SAT or ACT scores. And the recent announcement by the College Board that a new (spring, 2016) SAT will be revised to reflect the old 1600-point system (800 each for reading and writing instead of the current 2400-point exam…..800 for each of reading, math, and writing, with new evidence-based reading and writing, and an essay-optional section scored separately) reflects the College Board’s realization that the existing SAT does not accurately reflect students’ ability or potential to succeed later on in college.
The SAT and ACT are very different exams and many students often perform better on one than the other. The differences in types of questions presented, scoring systems, subtests,and overall performances between the SAT and ACT are well-documented. Since nearly all U.S. colleges accept the results of either exam, and it is the student’s choice which test results they send to the colleges they are applying to, most college and school counselors advise students to attempt both tests at least once to determine which exam a student may attain better results on. While the SAT is in large part a measure of a student’s logic and reasoning skills, the ACT tends to be a content-based test which measures more of what a student or has not learned. Students can perform better on both tests with some practice in question types, test-taking strategies, and familiarity with the subsections of each test, but due to the reasoning nature of the SAT, preparation classes, books, tutoring and resources are much greater for the SAT than the ACT.
Many school parent groups offer opportunities for students to take mock exams for both tests; sample exams to determine which test fits a particular student ‘s knowledge and/or reasoning ability; or they partner with local test prep companies to offer practice sessions at their school. Pay4SchoolStuff.com provides the online platform to list payments and registration forms for any of these opportunities which prepare students for taking the tests. Let us know if we can discuss this further with your school or parent organization.