Students have long been told that standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are key components of college success, with high scores on these exams helping them get into their school of choice and opening doors to scholarships and career paths after graduation. Although those assumptions may still hold, as more colleges opt for test-optional policies the value of high test scores in admissions processes is decreasing significantly.
The two major standardized exams, the SAT and ACT, are designed to assess different academic abilities. Both exams are accepted by most universities across the U.S.; however, each contains its own set of unique sections that may help you decide which exam best meets your academic interests.
Both the SAT and ACT exams provide optional essay sections; the former requires you to analyze an article and give your opinion, while on the latter it asks you to identify key evidence from passages and make supporting arguments for them. Furthermore, both exams contain reading comprehension sections wherein participants must read passages aloud before answering related questions.
While SAT or ACT scores still have a tremendous effect on admissions chances, more colleges are moving away from rigid admissions processes in favor of holistic evaluations that consider grades, extracurriculars and teacher recommendations alongside standardised test scores. Still, for many families with children taking admission tests early and often for scholarships that require submission of test scores a high SAT/ACT score may provide an easy way to stand out without spending a great deal of time or money on extracurriculars; additionally many merit-based scholarships still require students submit them!
Some schools have become test-optional, no longer considering SAT and ACT scores when making admission decisions. Some students believe this move to be beneficial; others argue it unfairly disadvantages low-income or minority students without access to costly test preparation resources. Both College Board and ACT maintain they offer invaluable services in providing accurate assessments of student performance.
One of the main disadvantages associated with test-optional policies is that they place too much weight on other factors in the admissions process. According to Janet Godwin, CEO of ACT, dropping the SAT may allow admissions committees to place too much emphasis on factors like grade inflation, teacher recommendations and essays which can be biased or affected by family pressure.
Standardized tests remain essential to applying to highly selective schools; highly selective institutions use the scores as validation of strong academic abilities in applicants. Institutions also need a way of distinguishing smart students from others and need a means to distinguish those in the top percentile from everyone else.