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Making Sense of ACT/SAT Scores

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Many colleges base admissions decisions in part on the results of standardized tests called the ACT and the SAT tests. Juniors and seniors in high school usually take these tests to demonstrate their readiness for college-level work.

What Do the ACT and the SAT Tests Measure?

In general, the ACT and the SAT tests attempt to measure college readiness and predict future academic success. But they do so in very different ways:

The ACT test measures what a student already knows. It covers material that the student should have learned during high school.
The SAT test is used more as a predictor of what a student is capable of learning. It deals with material that the student may NOT have learned in high school.
For this reason, some students do better on the ACT test—especially if they tend to struggle with standardized tests—and other students do better on the SAT test. Most colleges accept either test score, so many students take both exams to improve their chances of being admitted.

The bottom line: Your child should talk to a school counselor for guidance on which test may be best for his or her disposition.

How Many Times Should My Child Take the ACT or SAT Test?

As long as they pay the test fee, students can take the ACT or SAT test multiple times. Colleges allow students to submit only their highest score, so students should not worry if their score drops when they retake the test.

Research shows that more than 50% of those who take the ACT test a second time improve their scores. But according to the people who administer the SAT test, there’s no evidence that shows that retaking the SAT test significantly changes scores. Plus, colleges may not look favorably at students who repeatedly take the SAT test.

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