Editorial: What Happened to the ACT?


Sage Stevens, Reporter

Colorado is one of two states (the other being Illinois) to require juniors to take a college entrance examination. In a few weeks, Manitou Springs High School 11th graders will be partaking in the American College Test (ACT). They have been preparing themselves with prep courses, study groups and Pre-ACT tests taken in earlier years of high school. Meanwhile, 10th graders will be taking the Pre-Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT). This is a significant change compared to previous years. This is a result of Colorado high schools switching to requiring 11th graders to take the SAT as opposed to the ACT.

Many describe the ACT as a test that measures a students achievement test, evaluating what a student has learned in school. The SAT is seen as an aptitude test, testing a student’s abilities concerning testing and reasoning. The ACT is strict knowledge, more akin to memorization, and the SAT is a reasoning test. The SAT tends to apply creative solutions to problems, while the ACT is typically straightforward. The SAT is more geared towards students who are the smart students that don’t test well, while the ACT is more geared towards a student who is good with remembering facts and tests well.

The ACT is structured with four required tests (Math, Reading, English, and Science), with an optional writing portion. The Math portion tests Arithmetic, Algebra I & II, Geometry and Trigonometry. the SAT is three tests (Math, Reading, Writing and Language) as well as an optional essay.  The most significant difference between the SAT and the ACT is the scoring. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36, with the Colorado state average being 20.1. The SAT is three tests (Math, Reading, Writing and Language). The SAT Math exam focuses on Arithmetic, Algebra I & II, Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis. Meanwhile, the SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600. The College Board has recently changed the scoring of the SAT from 600-2400, with the state average being 1736.

Colorado has been testing 11th graders since 2001. Many school officials are resistant to the change to the SAT, since the ACT has offered a gauge to evaluate academic performance (among the other standardized tests that serve that exact purpose).

Nearly all colleges within the US accept results from both the ACT and SAT. As a result, about 55,000 public school students took the ACT last spring, while only about 6,500 students took the SAT. Because of this fact, many are worried that Colorado will be at a disadvantage. Fortunately, the SAT is restructuring the tests that will be administered to the incoming junior class. The SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600. The College Board has recently changed the scoring of the SAT from 600-2400, with the state average being 1736. The state average is well above the national average of 1500, but many attribute this to the fact that the SAT is optional. This results in high achieving students choosing to take both tests, and the SAT average goes well above the national average.

The redesigned test causes some anxiety among educators, as every student, teacher, and school will be going into the SAT blindly. According to the College Board “it’s highly relevant to your future success. The new test is more focused on the skills and knowledge at the heart of education.”. The SAT has embraced the new approach to education, where memorization of facts, words, and dates are irrelevant. The restructured test will evaluate the subjects a student should have learned in high school, as well as what they need to know to be successful in college.

The Colorado Department of Education cites their decision to the alignment of the PSAT to the high school Common Core Math and English standards. Additionally, The College Board offers more insightful results, as well as offering opportunities for students to make the necessary connections for a successful future. Additionally, the restructured test will no longer penalize students for guessing instead of omitting the question.   Most students will not suffer from this decision, for in the situations in which students take both the SAT and the ACT, they typically perform at the same level on both tests.