ACT/SAT misleading info

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Discus: College Admissions: 2002 - 2003 Archive: November 2003 Archive: ACT/SAT misleading info
By Dazedhyacinth (Dazedhyacinth) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 03:19 pm: Edit

I'm very confused. From the charts online, it seems that, say, a 31 ACT is not as good as a 1390/1400 SAT. But when I look at the average scores of accepted students at top colleges, the average ACT is usually a 29 or 30, while the SAT averages are much higher than the alleged equivilent SAT score of 1300-ish. So which should I send? Why the discrepency? The only thing I can think of is that the ACT is a more midwestern test, and midwestern schools tend to place less emphasis on SAT prep than east costers? I can't figure it. What's up?

By Clickspring (Clickspring) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 05:17 pm: Edit

That's the score conversion. People who score between 1360 and 1400 score a 31 on the ACT, so a 31 is equivilent to about a 1380 on the SAT.

You should send which ever score is higher based on the chart, and if they're equivelent, send both

By Dazedhyacinth (Dazedhyacinth) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 08:52 pm: Edit

Right, I know that. My question is why are colleges average ACTs lower than their average SATs?

By Confetti (Confetti) on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 10:38 pm: Edit

i've wondered the exact same, dazed!

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 12:05 am: Edit

Just to let you know, many of the highly selective colleges do not like ACTs though they accept them. Many caveat the acceptance, Princeton being a notable example. As a rule, if you live in a state where ACTs are the norm, then by all means, send the ACTs if they are favorable. If you live in Massachusetts or NY and you send ACTs over SATs, it does attract a bit of attention and the natural response of any intelligent admissions officer is "why?" followed by "she must not have done well on the SATs." Unless there is a large discrepancy between the tests, I would stick with the SATs.
There really is no accurate way to convert one test to another--the charts provide averages and the common conversion. The truth of the matter is that it fluctuates quite widely.

By Rowan (Rowan) on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 01:25 am: Edit

That seems logical, Jamimom, but isn't it a little callous? Granted, I know those schools unfortunately have to look for ways to limit their pools, but...

Just because one student performs better on a certain test and doesn't happen to live in the area where it's favoured shouldn't be a reason for rejection, particularly if it's a better score equivalent! The percentiles for the 31+ ACT scores are all in the 99s and above; you can't say that about the SATs until much higher.

It shouldn't matter which test you take, and I think it's wrong if it does. But then, I'm not the adcom.

(And yes, I speak as a West-coast child who scored significantly better, comparitively, on the ACT)

By Metz (Metz) on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 02:01 am: Edit

I don't think it's the difficulty of the test that is in question: it's the content. From my understanding (I've never actually taken the ACT), the SAT is more of a "reasoning" test where the ACT is more of a "what you've learned" test. I think the thing is that the top schools feel they can use your grades, rank, difficulty of classes, and SAT II's to judge what you have learned. The SAT on the other hand I think tests more of your innate ability than the ACT. I could be wrong, but that's just the feeling I've gotten from hearing about the two tests.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 02:04 am: Edit

If you check out Princeton's official stance on the ACT vs SAT isssue, you will see what I mean. Most of my friends from the mid west submitted ACT scores since their kids did better on the ACTs. None of them got into Princeton, Does anyone know personally of a candidate who got into a highly selective east coast school submitting just ACTs? Better yet does anyone know of a candidate who is an east coaster who submitted just ACTs and got into a highly selective east coast school? I don't know of anyone over a 30 year span and would be interested in that information. Now, I do know kids who submitted both test scores, but in those cases the SATs were pretty good, though the ACT was higher on a percentile basis.

By T2opine (T2opine) on Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 09:45 pm: Edit

I have taken both the SAT and the ACT, and while I do feel the ACT is testing more of what you learn in high school, there are parts of it that are considerably harder. For example, you only have 35 minutes to complete 40 questions in science, which forces you to quickly read, interpret, and analyze charts and graphs. In reading, you only have 35 minute to answer 40 questions in science, humanities, social sciences, and prose fiction. The passages are about the same length as the ones on the SAT. However, you are much more pressed for time. Also, the ACT tests higher level math than the SAT. And while I do understand that the SAT tests reasoning because of all the analogies, what really helps a person do well on analogies is if they have a wide vocabulary. And while the ACT doesn't have analogies, having a wide vocabulary can certainly help you understand the reading passages better. I think a lot of schools may prefer the SAT because it has been around longer, so it's probably easier to get statistics. Personally, I'm sending both the SAT and ACT scores, and I know my ACT score was considerably higher.

By Soccergl31 (Soccergl31) on Friday, November 14, 2003 - 10:14 pm: Edit

Jamimom -
I am an east coaster who only submitted ACTs and got into a fairly highly selective college (about a 20% acceptance rate). I'm from Massachusetts and attend Middlebury College, and was accepted with a composite ACT score of 31. Granted, Middlebury does make SATs optional, and therefore only requires 3 SAT II, AP, and ACT subscores total. But the submission of any combination of several of the above tests is looked upon quite favoribly, and a majority of students do submit their SAT I scores, or at least their SAT II scores, neither of which I did and still was accepted.

By Drusba (Drusba) on Saturday, November 15, 2003 - 02:59 pm: Edit

The reasons why the ACT scores seem to be lower than supposed "equivalent" SAT's at many schools:

1. That on-line equivalency table which is based on a percentile comparison of 1994 to 1996 tests, before the last recentering of the SAT which raised all SAT scores, happens to be entirely useless today and few if any colleges rely on it. Colleges either use their own equivalency tables today derived from modern test percentile rankings (where that 31 would be equivalent to about a 1450 SAT) or don't bother to do any comparison at all.

2. Most colleges will take your highest verbal SAT and highest math SAT from different tests to get your composite score. Most colleges won't do that for the ACT subsections and simply take your highest composite score. Thus, it is easier to get a higher SAT for admission purposes than it is for the ACT.

By Confetti (Confetti) on Saturday, November 15, 2003 - 05:34 pm: Edit

This site has the recentered conversion table.
31 = 1380 according to its table.

By Drusba (Drusba) on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 05:49 am: Edit

I know what it claims to be but if you look at the bottom you will see that it also relies on a percentile comaparison of 1994 to 96 scores. There are schools that still rely on that out-of-date data but many do their own. If you were to use percentile rankings for 2003 high school seniors to do a comparison today you will find that a 31 is the 98 percentile and the 98 percentile for SAT is 1440 to 1470 and many colleges would place that 31 close to that range today.

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