What most college counselors do not know about the SAT v. ACT

By College Advice

“Should my child take the SAT or the ACT?”

I am asked the question a great deal.  My advice will not be generic.  All that matters to me is the student and family before me.  So, there will not be a magical blanket answer for everyone.  Anyone who gives one has not taken the time to listen to your situation.  I listen first and then advise.

While I generally have a great deal of respect for the college and guidance counselors that I know in Connecticut, I get bothered when some provide advice about standardized tests.  Most haven’t even looked at the tests in years and since most are a bit older most do not know much about the ACT.

For that reason, students will hear a few half-truths about the test.

“My counselor said the ACT was easier so I should take that test.”

This is partially true but not in the part that matters.  The ACT has easier questions than the SAT.  So, the test-taker will think she is better at the ACT.  That’s the true part.

But, both the SAT and ACT are curved.  So, in the only area that matters – the score – the ease of the test is not particularly relevant because the test is easier for everyone.

That the SAT and ACT are curved seems to be a point that has never been considered by many college counselors.

Curved tests that are easy are not necessarily a good thing for students from Connecticut because we have such a strong school system.   The harder the test, generally speaking, the better Connecticut students should do nationally.

With that said, there are many nuances and subtleties that do matter.  When I provide advice to students on this issue, I first need to learn about the student. Otherwise, I’ll run the risk of giving unhelpful generic advice.