To SAT or to ACT?

What's going on with the SAT?

To the great confusion of teachers, students, parents, and colleges alike, the SAT has changed its format. It’s not the first time the SAT is throwing a curve ball at college applicants and their already sufficiently nervous parents. Originally, the SAT was scored out of 1600 points, then out of 2400 points, and now it’s back to a 1600 point format. But in the process of going back to the original scoring, the test has been radically revamped and has very little in common with the original 1600 point SAT, its tricky analogies, and its vocabulary section even the makers of the Oxford English Dictionary would have trouble getting through unscathed.

Enter the ACT

As a result, the ACT has come more into the limelight of the college application process. The ACT has been around for nearly as long as the SAT – and has always been scored in 36 straightforward points – but, in India at least, there has been a marked preference for the SAT. Now that parents and students are for the first time seriously considering the ACT, they are understandably unsure whether the ACT can be trusted. We at Essai are big believers in the virtues of the ACT, and we’d like to share with you what has given us the conviction that, in the present state of affairs, there is really no way the SAT has the edge over the ACT.

For colleges ACT = SAT

First of all, colleges do not discriminate against the ACT, so there's not inherent advantage in taking the SAT rather than the ACT if the ACT might give you better chances of coming out on top of the challenging US college application process. On the face of it, both tests are equal. 

On Yale's website you can read:

Columbia says much the same.

The University of Chicago is even more unambiguous about not favouring either the ACT or the SAT.

But at the moment there are, in fact, a number of advantages to taking the ACT – advantages with four direct beneficiaries: the student, the parents, the tutors, and the colleges. 

What's a new 1450 or 1500 is really worth?

Although the colleges obviously accept the new SAT, no one really knows much about how meaningful the score is to colleges in terms of offering a clear picture of a particular student’s capabilities and a means to compare them with thousands of other applicants. It takes years to establish a reliable average score in standardised tests, and at the moment colleges have just one year's worth of SAT data. We all know that colleges are interested in research, but you should rather contribute to it as a student than as an applicant. At the moment any one taking the SAT is actually testing a test. You should rather test yourself, so colleges know who you are and what you are able to do.

There's no mystery to what a ACT 33 or 34 is worth

The ACT score, on the other hand, is a long established trademark with decades of data that yield a highly reliable average score, so we as tutors and you as parents and students know exactly what a given score will mean to a college. This is why we, after years of teaching the SAT, are now exclusively offering tuition for the ACT. Times change; habits need to keep up. As SAT tutors, the SAT has been our habit. We have invested a large amount of time and effort to optimise our ways to teach it. So we, of all people, would be the first to stick with the SAT if it made any sense, but at the moment it's just not an option. So we invite you to change your habits with us to make the most of the prospect of a college education in the US by taking the ACT.