What’s Happening to the SAT and ACT?

Matt Larriva
Jul 31, 2016
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The SAT/ACT testing landscape is in a state of flux.

Changing but not Leaving

This year has seen the introduction of a new pre -ACT, the coming of the New SAT, apointed argument between the CollegeBoard and the ACT on score concordances, and the publication of a letter from Harvard urging schools to shift away from a focus on standardized tests. Meanwhile, FairTest.org is holding firm to its mantra that more schools are shifting toward testing-optional formats.
Amidst the noise, it might seem that standardized tests are losing standing, or falling away, but this is not the case.

Testing OptioNOT

First, rumors of the testing-optional trend have been greatly exaggerated. Fairtest.org claims that 850 schools are now testing-optional. But our analysis discovered that a very large number of these schools are not traditional four-year institutions (i.e., music conservatories, art institutes, for-profit colleges), while another large slice actually does require standardized tests from some of their applicants.

Free test for all

We can conclude that the testing-optional trend will not be the death of standardized tests, but does that mean that the industry is growing? It does, but for another reason. States have begun to adopt the SAT and ACT as high-school exit exams. Substituting these tests for states’ traditional standardized exams represents a deep entrenchment of the SAT/ACT pair.

Moreover, as more schools shift toward The Common Core, it is highly likely that they will seek tests that evaluate the common core—as the ACT and SAT purport to do. On the logistics side, new state initiatives are earmarking funds to sponsor ACT and SAT testing for students, making it nearly impossible to avoid taking either the SAT or ACT.

What does the rest of the world do?

Finally, while the US is arguably the leader in university education, it is indisputably weak in pre-college education. When we look to the practices of other nations, we see standardized testing at every stage, as an effective tool in the education process. As the US continues to improve its public school systems, standardized test like the SAT and ACT will continue to proliferate.

In our opinion, standardized testing is firmly rooted in the American education system now and for the foreseeable future.

We hope that’s helpful. And remember, we’re happy to answer any questions.