Decide which test to take: ACT/SAT

June 19, 2018, by

How to Decide Which Test to Take: ACT or SAT?

 

Which test is better, the ACT or SAT? Last week, ACT and the College Board released a new score concordance, potentially reopening the question of which test is best for your child to take, especially for those with scores at the upper end of the scales.

Don’t go on a hunch! The new concordance tables only help you make a decision if you have accurate scores from recent tests, so use scores and real test experience to help your child find the test that will give him or her the best advantage.

Step 1:

Make sure that your child takes carefully timed and supervised baseline ACT and SAT tests.

Marks Education offers free, supervised practice tests for clients in our offices. We use real ACTs and SATs released by ACT and the College Board.

Note: If your child has recently taken the Junior PSAT, this is a fairly reliable predictor of SAT scores, so it may only be necessary to take a practice ACT to compare the scores.

Step 2:

Once you have the scores for both tests, use the chart below to see whether your child did better on the ACT or SAT.

If the score comparison indicates that one test is better by a margin of one ACT point or more, direct your child toward that test.

If the scores are comparable, ask your child to consider the following factors:

  • Which test did she or he feel better taking? Comfort level with the test is a big factor in eventual performance, so students should think about this carefully.
  • Slower, deliberate test takers should lean toward the SAT.
  • Students who struggle with reading comprehension passages from older texts (think Benjamin Franklin, Virginia Woolf, or Jeremy Bentham) should lean toward the ACT.
  • Students who like to move quickly through straightforward questions should favor the ACT.

Important: Choose either the ACT or the SAT and focus on that test. The tests are different enough that, for most students, studying for both is a tremendous waste of time. Also, preparing for both may prevent score improvement. The SAT prioritizes careful consideration, while the ACT prioritizes speed. Most students who switch back and forth between tests follow the wrong strategies for each test, and this affects potential improvement.

How to Compare Scores Across Tests

The following table compares scores across the ACT and SAT. The scores reported in the table are from the most recent concordance report, jointly produced and released by the College Board and ACT.

Since the release of the new SAT in 2016, the score comparisons have changed slightly, and top ACT scores are now comparable to slightly lower SAT scores and lower ACT scores comparable to higher SAT scores. The table below illustrates the change in concordance from the tables published in 2016 to those just recently released.

ACT Composite ACT Percentile SAT Total 2018 SAT Total 2016
36 99 1590 1600
35 99 1540 1570
34 99 1500 1540
33 98 1460 1500
32 97 1430 1470
31 96 1400 1430
30 94 1370 1400
29 92 1340 1360
28 89 1310 1320
27 86 1280 1290
26 82 1240 1260
25 78 1210 1220
24 74 1180 1180
23 69 1140 1140
22 63 1110 1110
21 57  1080 1070
20 51 1040 1030
19 44 1010 990
18 38 970 950
17 31 930 910
16 25 890 870
15 19 850 830
14 13 800 780
13 8 760 740
12 4 710
11 1 670
10 1 630
9 1 590

Sources: Guide to the 2018 ACT/SAT Concordance; National Distributions of Cumulative Percents for ACT Test Scores

Just a few points can make a difference!

As you can see at the high end of the table, this change in concordance may tip the decision more toward the SAT for some top scoring students. Although the changes are small, even a few points one way or the other can make big differences for students’ college and financial aid decisions.

Not sure what to make of these changes? Contact us today with any questions about preparing for the ACT or SAT, or to schedule a FREE practice test.

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