More school systems are using the ACT over the SAT as one measure of student achievement, and Guilford County Schools is no exception.
In 2011-12 school year, the state began funding the administration of the ACT. For years, the SAT was the standardized test of choice for students in North Carolina, although it was never funded by the state.
Now, because of the state’s switch to Common Core standards, the ACT looks like a better measure for curriculum comprehension.
Dibrelle Tourret, executive director of Guilford County Schools’ Academically Gifted program, was involved in implementing the test in Guilford County.
“The SAT is more of an aptitude test,” Tourret said. “The ACT is more curriculum based, which aligns with the adoption of Common Core, and the test itself aligns better with Common Core.”
Guilford County Schools administers the ACT to all 11th graders in March. It takes place during the school day. The ACT tests the students’ knowledge of their core curriculum: English, reading, science and math. The writing portion also is offered to the students.
Also, sophomores are administered the PLAN test, which is created by the same company as the ACT and basically is a pre-ACT test. Eighth graders take the EXPLORE test to serve the same purpose. Both tests are administered in October.
“It has the same format as the ACT and provides data to schools for course recommendations, like for AP courses,” Tourret said. “It’s a great series of tests.”
For students who may already have taken an SAT prep course, Dibrelle said the tests really aren’t that different.
“The ACT doesn’t penalize for guessing, so students should be sure to answer all the questions,” she said. “(A difference is) there is a lot of information, and students feel they have to get through it in a short period of time.”
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ACT vs. SAT
• All four-year colleges and universities in the country accept ACT scores, so prospective college students now have a choice when it comes to standardized testing.
• According to the Princeton Review, it’s all about the numbers. Some students end up scoring substantially higher on the SAT while others do better on the ACT.
• While colleges don’t require it, many prospective students are taking — and retaking — both the ACT and the SAT. Many teachers encourage students to take both, to determine which one will give them a better shot at getting into the college of their choice.
• While the number of students taking the SAT is still growing, the ACT is growing much faster, in part because 12 states, including North Carolina, now require, and pay for, all public high school juniors to take the test.
• The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities.
• ACT questions often are easier to understand on a first read. On the SAT, you may need to spend time figuring out what you’re being asked before you can start solving the problem
• The SAT has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary
• The ACT has a science section. The SAT does not.
• The ACT tests more advanced math concepts.
• The ACT is more of a “big picture” exam. Colleges care about how you did on each section of the SAT. On the ACT, they’re most concerned with your composite score. So if you’re weak in one content area but strong in others, you could still end up with a very good ACT score.
Sources: The New York Times, The Princeton Review