Well, well, well. If the folks at college board intended to make their test (the SAT) more competitive with the ACT (which had recently overtaken the SAT as the most popular college admissions test), boy did they misfire. Never in my more than 10 years of tutoring for these tests have I done so much ACT tutoring! Of course that may change over time as people come back to the SAT, but if I used to do 80% SAT and 20% ACT tutoring, those percentages are now reversed. And this is New York, where the SAT has long reigned supreme!
In the coming months I will be posting more about the new SAT as I myself become more acquainted with it. But I couldn’t help but comment on the difference I have seen in local demand for the ACT. And it is not without good reason…
First of all, College Board has not released that much practice material for the new test, so even if one were inclined to prepare for the SAT, one would not have a whole lot to work with. Aside from the 4 practice tests they released, there is not much else that one can use. I have not gone through that much of the material from Khan Academy (aside from the tests), but I suspect that the additional material that is being housed on the Khan site is not being written by ETS (the company that produces the SAT). Conversely there is a wealth on material available for the ACT, including many, many old previously administered tests that make it very easy to prepare for the ACT.
Another thing is that the new SAT is now a lot like the ACT (which is itself an absolute shame in my opinion…I am really, really going to miss the old SAT). When the SAT was very different from the ACT it gave people a reason to opt for that test instead of the ACT. In the past I really viewed the SAT as a superior test. But now that the SAT is so unabashedly mimicking the ACT (and I mean really mimicking it), why would one take this new imposter test when the real thing (the ACT) has been running relatively unchanged for many, many years. I am glossing over key differences between the tests that will, in the future, undoubtedly influence people’s decision, but the general impression that most people seem to have at the moment is that the SAT is now just a copy of the ACT. Oh, how far you have fallen SAT!
One interesting thing to just throw in here. PSAT scores were recently released and I have to say that an interesting thing has happened. Many people seem to have done really well on the PSAT – so well that they are now considering taking the SAT as well. At first I thought I was crazy to think that the PSAT scores could have been artificially inflated a little to encourage people to take the SAT. I still think that idea seems a little far-fetched, but I recently came across something on Erica Meltzer’s blog (author of The Critical Reader and The Ultimate Grammar Guide to the SAT) in which she pointed to what appears to be some tinkering with the percentiles in order to give the impression that people are in a higher percentile than they really should be. I don’t know if this is true, but if so it is an ingenious (albeit slimy) way to lure people back to the SAT.
Anyway, for now I am enjoying all of the ACT tutoring I am doing and have discovered a new found love for the test. I will never love it as much as I loved the old SAT, and ACT Inc. just does not really have their act together the way the producer of such an important test should (in my opinion, for example, they don’t vet their questions adequately and there are things that happen on the ACT that are unfair and that would never have happened on the old SAT). But for now I have embraced the ACT and have come to appreciate it in ways that I never anticipated. Goodbye SAT, hello ACT!