Opinion: A look at the ACT test

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Margene Walz

College bound students always talk about the SAT aptitude test. However, there is another test used by virtually all U.S. colleges and universities including the Ivys. That test is the ACT.

Why should a student take the ACT in addition to the SAT? One reason, unlike the SAT, which is more analytical, the ACT is curriculum based and not an aptitude test. In other words, it tests what is learned in high school English, math, reading and science classes.

The purpose of the SAT is to project the success of a student when they start college. The ACT tests on what the student knows. If your student does well in class, they may feel more comfortable with the ACT and may receive a higher score than on the SAT. This higher score may be enough to get them into their first choice college. My suggestion is to always keep your options open and take both tests.

As with the SAT, a student may take the ACT several times. If it is taken more than once, ACT will only submit to the colleges the test score the student wants submitted. In the past the SAT submitted all test scores but as of March 2009, most colleges will accept the best SAT scores the student chooses to submit. Check the policy of your selected colleges.

When registering for the ACT, include the “writing” portion. The University of California system and various private schools will only accept the ACT “plus writing”

  Important differences are: unlike the SAT, there is no guessing penalty on the ACT. You are only scored on correct answers. Plus ACT does not use “fill in” answers. All questions are multiple choice.

How can you tell if you should test again? There are several things to consider:

  1. Did you have trouble understanding the directions?
  1. Were you not feeling well the day of the test?
  1. Is there a big difference between your high school grades and your ACT score?
  1. Have you recently completed a course that will assist you in improving your score?

ACT research shows that students who take the test more than once:

  • 55 percent increase their composite score
  • 23 percent decrease their composite score
  • 22 percent remain the same

The next test date is April 9 with a registration deadline of March 5. The regular cost including the writing portion is $48. You may signup online at www.actstudent.org or call (319) 337-1270. If registering by phone an additional $12 is added to the cost. For more information contact ACT at www.act.org or call the above phone number.

We recommend students take the ACT their junior year of high school.

If they are not happy with their scores, they can study during the summer and re-take it again before January their senior year.

Again, check with your chosen colleges regarding their test day deadlines. Information for this article was collected from www.act.org a web site dedicated to assisting and advising college-bound students and from College Bound Teen Magazine.

Margene Walz is an Academic and Athletic Advisor for Quest College Counseling in Los Alamitos. For more information, call (562) 280-0460 or email QuestCC@hotmail.com.

Opinion: A look at the ACT test