The ACT is on the rise, but the SAT still has the majority
On Aug. 28, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) reported that a record number of students took the American College Test (ACT) in Montgomery County last year. More than 3,000 MCPS students out of the Class of 2012 took the test. The number showed that 24 percent more students in Montgomery County took the ACT during the 2011-2012 school year than during the 2008-2009 school year, which only had 2,355 test takers.The most dramatic increases in participation in the ACT were among African-American and Hispanic students. Among 2012 MCPS graduates, 718 African-American students took the ACT, an increase of 364 students from five years ago, and 414 Hispanic students in MCPS took it, nearly triple the 149 students that took the exam in 2008.
In addition, MCPS students consistently outscored their peers in the state of Maryland and across the nation as well. MCPS students earned an average composite score of 23.2 out of 36, significantly higher than the state average of 22.1 and the national average of 21.1.
The ACT focuses on all of the subjects that a student would learn in school, including English, Math, Reading and Science, while the SAT measures literacy and writing skills. The SAT also assesses how well a student analyzes and solves problems. One notable difference between the two tests is that the ACT does not have a penalty for wrong answers like the SAT does (1/4 point).
Samantha Schweickhardt, a 2012 Blair graduate, preferred the ACT to the SAT. "The ACT is split up into four sections instead of the SAT where you have 10 little sections, in which you have to jump from subject to subject each time," Schweickhardt said. "The ACT is easier on the brain and makes the test seem to go by quicker."
Schweickhardt, who is now a freshman at the University of Maryland, also said that she preferred the ACT's writing section, in which the test-taker is not required to flip pages between looking at passages, questions and answers, which is necessary for the SAT. She felt the test was less stressful for her and ended up getting a good score on one of her weakest sections. "It's all right in front of you. Because of this, it was a lot easier and I got a great score on the writing section, which is usually my weakest," Schweickhardt added.
DeAngela Hill, the testing coordinator at Wheaton High School, believed that the ACT is easier and less stressful for the students. "The SAT has more sections and for the most part covers a more wide range of topics than the ACT," Hill mentioned. "The ACT has only four sections: Reading, English, Math and Science, plus an optional writing section. This way the students are a little less intimidated and stressed."
Blair college prep and math teacher Peter Engelmann reinforced the points brought up by Schweickhardt and Hill. "The ACT test is more straightforward while the SAT requires more reasoning…the ACT is easier to prepare for," Engelmann pointed out.
Although the number of students who took the ACT increased, it, however, remains far below the number of students who took the SAT. Around 7,000 Montgomery County students took the SAT last school year, which is more than double the number of students who took the ACT.
But Hill believed that those numbers could soon be switched around. "I think the number of students taking the ACT will continue to go up and that the number of students taking the more traditional SAT will decrease," Hill said. "Quite possibly in the next few years there will be more kids taking the ACT than the SAT."
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