The SAT and the ACT
college admissions test scores worse today than a generation ago?
really. They're about the same on the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT, formerly
the Scholastic Aptitude Test) and the American College Test (ACT).
the scores may be flat because (1) schools are doing better, or (2) schools are
doing worse. In the first case, schools might be doing a better job preparing
the "bottom of the barrel" among the student population, and so students who
might not have tried to go to college in previous years are now taking the
tests and seeing if they could get in to college. Naturally, their lower scores
would keep the averages down. But if (2) is correct, then we have doubled the
amount of money we spend per pupil in the last 30 years, even after adjusting
for inflation, but are getting just about the same results, while the world is
getting increasingly more complicated and everyone agrees we need graduates
with better academic skills.
The SAT is
published by the Educational Testing Service,
Princeton, N.J. It consists of the SAT
Reasoning TestTM (SAT) and SAT
Subject TestsTM. The SAT is three hours and 45 minutes long and
measures skills in three areas: critical reading, math, and writing. Although
most questions are multiple choice, students are also required to write a 25-minute
essay. The SAT
Subject Tests are one-hour, mostly multiple-choice tests in specific
subjects. These tests measure knowledge of particular subjects and the ability
to apply that knowledge. Many colleges require or recommend one or more of
these tests for admission or placement purposes. In general, colleges on the
East Coast require the SAT, and colleges in the Midwest and West prefer the
ACT. But many students take both. For more about them, see SAT
The ACT is in Iowa City, Iowa. For a list of
Frequently Asked Questions directed at students, see: ACT FAQ. The ACT has always
been more aligned with high school curricula than the SAT is, although both
claim to be excellent predictors of college success.
Jay P. Greene is considered one of the
nation's top experts on education statistics and how to analyze them correctly,
which is especially important in understanding what SAT and ACT test scores
mean. He is professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, and
senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. There's excellent information about
testing, including college admissions tests, in his book, Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About
Our Schools - And Why It Isn't So.