In your high school years, the SAT and ACT are some of the most important acronyms in your life. But which test looks most impressive to colleges? How are they different? Which test will play best to your strengths? Our new blog series over the coming months will cover the differences between the SAT and ACT and answer each of these questions.
In this blog, structured as answers to common questions, we’ll look at how colleges view the SAT and ACT and the effect that the tests have on a student’s college application.
Why do colleges even need SAT and ACT scores? How much do my test scores matter?
Beginning back in the early 1900s, a small group of colleges in the northeast (called the College Board) decided that there should be a standardized test that measures incoming students in a variety of subjects. It was meant to ensure high school lessons were being learned, so that students had a higher chance of graduating from college.
Today’s standardized tests fill similar, but less central, roles. Colleges recognize that applicants can’t be defined by a test score and base their decision on other elements of a submission, including class rank, AP scores, extracurricular activities, sports, leadership roles, writing samples, and more. Although some schools have made submitting standardized test scores optional, solid test scores always aid college applications.
Do all US colleges accept SAT and ACT scores?
Yes, all colleges and universities in the United States accept both SAT and ACT scores. (Even some schools abroad do, too.) No matter which test you take, your score will be a worthwhile addition to your college application.
Do colleges prefer one test over the other?
While colleges and universities do not necessarily prefer one test to another, based on the geographic location of the school, one test may be more popular. The following map shows that in recent years, the ACT has grown to be the more popular test in the midwestern, southern, and Rocky Mountain regions of the United States, while the SAT has seen more popularity on the east and west coasts.
(Map created by Erik Jacobsen for public use on Wikipedia.org)
When researching the college to which you’d like to apply, take a look at their data on SAT and ACT scores. What are the ranges of scores that recent freshman classes have achieved? Does the school have a recommended score that it looks for?
How do colleges compare SAT and ACT scores – and how can I?
Because the tests are different and the distribution of scores changes slightly on each test date, comparing SAT and ACT scores isn’t an exact science. However, the ACT offers this concordance table to give students an idea of how their scores line up.
What about taking both tests? Will that look indecisive?
Not at all! The SAT and ACT are different tests that measure slightly different skill sets (which we’ll get into in our later blog posts in this series). Count on colleges to take your scores into account with other parts of your application. Admissions counselors know that there could be barriers to taking both tests (cost of tests, time commitments, accessibility issues, etc.), so it will be seen as more of a bonus than a requirement.
In the next few months, stay tuned to learn more about both the SAT and the ACT. Our blogs will help you find the best test (or tests) for you! If you’re ready for a deeper exploration of these tests, sign up for an SAT or ACT class with The Answer Class! We even have an option to purchase a discounted combo prep class package, where you will gain experience and knowledge on both tests in only two 8-hour sessions.