SAT versus ACT: which is better? One day, the two tests may virtually be the same, if the College Board’s recent announcement is any indication. Earlier this week, College Board president David Coleman emailed the organization’s members, which include 6,000 high schools and colleges, to inform them that significant changes will be made to the SAT. Although Coleman didn’t indicate the scope of the changes or the timeline on which they’ll occur, one can infer that, due to recent events, the test is likely to become more like its counterpart/competitor, the ACT. Consider the following:
In 2011, for the first time in history, more students took the ACT than the SAT. It used to be that the SAT was preferred by colleges on the East and West coasts, while the ACT was preferred by schools in the middle of the country. Because of these preferences, the SAT was more popular with students in the East and West, while the ACT was more popular with everyone else. It’s been several years since any college has had a preference for one test over the other, and as a result, the geographical divisions have subsided, and more students are taking both tests.
Another history lesson: the ACT was designed as a curriculum-based test, meaning it’s intended to measure what students have learned in high school. In contrast, the SAT was designed as an aptitude test that measures students’ ability/intelligence. In 2005, the SAT was redesigned to be more curriculum-based, but it would appear that the ACT still wins in this area, as indicated by the fact that several states are using it as a statewide standardized test for high school juniors. Only one state is using the SAT for this purpose.
Forty-six states and Washington, D.C. have adopted what are called the Common Core standards for K-12 education. The ACT seized on this trend by releasing a publication in 2010 that explained how its test aligns with these standards. In his email to College Board members, Coleman stated that the SAT needs to become better connected to the Common Core. It’s important to note that, before joining the College Board, Coleman helped write the Common Core standards for English.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the SAT over the next few years. While we can only speculate as to how it will change, one thing is certain: test prep companies probably are already groaning at the thought of having to rewrite their entire SAT prep curricula.