Changes Coming to the ACT

The ACT recently announced that it will be changing the way scores are reported. Here's what you need to know, as well as a few tips on how to pick between the ACT and the SAT.

The ACT recently announced that, beginning next year, it will be changing the way scores are reported. The 36-point scale will remain in tact, but students who take the test will also receive a score on two new “readiness indicators” that will reflect how they perform in terms of career readiness and their ability to understand complex text.

The exam will feature two new categories: one that will combine the science and math portions and give test-takers a separate score to rate their STEM performance, and one for students who take the writing portion that will combine how they performed on the English, reading, and writing portions.

The writing portion will remain optional for traditional Saturday test takers, but the ACT did announce that it is being modified to make the essay topics more advanced.

These changes to the ACT come after the College Board announced large-scale changes to the SAT earlier this year, including an overhaul of the vocabulary that is tested (fewer words you’d only learn for the test and more words that you’ll actually use in, you know, the real world) and an optional essay. The changes to the ACT aren’t nearly as drastic as the SAT's and will hopefully serve to give you—and the schools you’re applying to—a better idea of how prepared you are for college course work.

“We’re continuing to polish it, but not rebuild it,” said Jon Erickson, president of the ACT, adding that he’s hopeful that students will find the new scoring methods “enlightening and, dare I may say, exciting.”

In 2012, the ACT surpassed the SAT in popularity, and it continues to gain ground. Just under 600,000 students are scheduled to take the exam this coming Saturday, June 14, which is a record high. But which of the two tests you should or will be required to take depends on several factors. Here are a few tips to help you decide:

  • Find out which of the two tests are required by the schools you’re applying to. If they require one particular one, that settles the matter. But if they’ll accept either, you can explore your options.
  • Take the PSAT and PLAN tests, which can help you predict how well you’ll perform on the SAT and ACT. If you do better on one than the other, that can help point you in the right direction.
  • If you have trouble concentrating and/or sitting still for a long time, the ACT could possibly be a better option for you because it takes a little less time than the SAT.
  • Think about your learning style and your critical thinking skills. The SAT focuses more on reasoning ability and the ACT focuses more on straight-up knowledge. For example, the SAT places more importance on vocabulary and reading comprehension, while the ACT places more importance on grammar and syntax. Think about which test would better suit your strengths.

As super un-fun as they are, standardized tests are still required by many institutions (though not all!), and it’s at least nice to see that both the ACT and SAT are working to make the exams as useful and effective as possible.

What do you think of the recent changes to the ACT and the SAT? Do you think they’ll factor into your decision of which test to take? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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About Stephanie Farah

Stephanie Farah

Stephanie is a former writer and senior editor for Carnegie Darlet and CollegeXpress. Stephanie holds a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's in Journalism from the University of North Texas. At various times she has been: an uncertain undergrad, a financial aid recipient, a transfer applicant, and a grad student with an assistantship and a full ride. Stephanie is an avid writer, traveler, cook, and dog owner. 


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