ACT vs. SAT – Is one more accepted?
For many years, I had to assure parents that the school their child was considering actually did accept the ACT. The parents were working from experience bias. The ACT was almost unknown when they attended college and many colleges didn’t even require an entrance examination. If one did, it was surely the SAT, which had over a decade’s head start into the blue ocean marketplace of college admissions exams. I had to send parents to admissions websites where the clear black letters explained that “either ACT or SAT scores are acceptable” and even then, these same parents were cowed by the received wisdom of other parents, who heard from someone’s grandpa’s uncle’s sister who 5 years ago worked in admissions at Dartmouth, you know, that they preferred the SAT. How much things have changed.
Now some students are hearing from the student grapevine that the ACT is not just a better test, but the preferred one. Again, we have to step in to intervene.
We understand why there may have been this swing. ACT has worked hard for years to overtake the SAT, and in 2012, they did. How did they do it? The way any smart company does. Strategic appointments to their Board of Directors. Legislation which caused the ACT to be required in certain states for the high school graduation process. Aggressive expansion of their PLAN testing – an early-stages test which is a mini-ACT. Awareness of the ACT test has crested, and now there isn’t just an acceptance of its equivalency for admissions, but the consumer – parent and student – perceives the ACT as more “fair” as it has 4 subjects tested (English, Math, Reading, and Science) instead of the SAT’s Reading, Math, and Writing.
However, despite your perception there is still no change. These tests have fundamental problems, yet, they are still accepted as part of the admissions process. Our job is to help you beat them, and honestly, we’re very successful in that job. A lot of our students get into schools they wanted to go to because of their prep here. Many get into schools or get scholarships they would have never dreamed of before working with us. Whichever test you end up working on (our advice is to take both free practice tests to see whether the ACT or SAT is better for you), be assured that colleges in America accept both the ACT and SAT as equivalent tests, without preference or prejudice.
On a final note, remember that just as the colleges don’t care which one you take, neither should you. Don’t just say, “Well all my siblings have taken the SAT, so that means I should too.” Maybe the SAT was the right test for them. Maybe they didn’t need prep. Maybe they didn’t work with experts who advised them to take both as practice tests so that they could get a subjective (how did I feel during the test?) and an objective (what was the score?) measure of this decision.
Unfortunately, although the colleges may have outsourced part of their decision-making process to these exams, it doesn’t mean you should outsource your decision on which one to take. Your starting point should be taking a practice version of both.