Every spring, high school students, mostly juniors and seniors but also some sophomores, prepare to take the SAT and ACT college entrance exams. Before 2016, this meant students needed rather extensive preparation for these tests. Changes in the tests began as early as 2015 and are more evident in 2017.
In the past, both tests had been fairly disconnected from what students studied up through high school and what they would be studying in college. This is what is changing for the ACT and SAT tests. The questions in each section will be more in line with material students study in school and will be using in college and their future careers.
ACT has been moving toward being more relevant to student learning for some time. This has resulted in students favoring this test over SAT.
Both tests have implemented changes so students are doing more than just trying to fill in bubbles with what they hope is the right answer. ACT is even going digital with their test so students have the option to take it on a computer for a more hands-on experience.
The math section in both tests, especially on the ACT test, has changed to include more statistics and probability questions similar to those they have faced in high school and will face in college.
Practice tests for SAT can be taken by students who want to know what type of questions they need to study and prepare for. ACT replaced their PLAN and EXPLORE standardized testing programs that tested student progress starting in third grade with a program called Aspire, which is in line with Common Core standards. The idea behind such programs as well as the changes in the ACT and SAT tests is to make preparation easier because students are already learning everything on the tests in their regular classes.
Where both tests have had the biggest changes is in how they are scored. SAT had increased their scoring from 1600 up to 2400 but have now gone back to 1600. SAT also offers an optional essay question that will add points for students who choose to take it. ACT is putting a little more focus on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) section.
The changes to these tests favor students who are average. Overachieving students may prefer the old ACT and SAT formats as it was easier for them to get into the top percentile. Whether students are average or overachievers, being prepared for SAT and ACT tests is something they do need to think about. Though the preparation is not as far outside of what they are already learning, extra study is still the best way to ensure they score well so their options for college acceptance are broader.