As if choosing schools, writing essays, signing checks and getting recommendations isn’t enough, the high school graduating class of 2006 has another worry to consider when preparing for college: taking anywhere from one to three standardized tests just to compete.
In the spring of 2005, the College Board will debut a new, longer SAT test. This leaves many juniors in a quandary as to which test to take — the old SAT, the new SAT or the ACT. While the majority of colleges require only one test, providing scores from both tests can give students a competitive edge. Taking both tests also creates options for students who have not yet determined where they want to attend college.
“Students taking both tests are students whose options are wide open,” said Ann Landis, guidance counselor at Hickman High School. “We give them options based on their plans; we don’t encourage one test over the other.”
Sixty-nine percent of Missouri graduates took the ACT in 2003, compared to 8 percent who took the SAT. Nationally, 40 percent of students take the ACT.
The ACT, which includes math, English, reading and science sections (and an optional writing section), appeals to local students because it tests a greater variety of subjects. Emily Logsdon, a senior at Hickman, took the ACT last year.
“The colleges I want to apply to don’t require the SAT,” she said. “The ACT seemed easier to me.”
Logsdon said many of her peers will take both tests this year, specifically those who are applying to colleges on the East or West coasts, or to Ivy League schools.
The changes in the SAT received a mixed welcome among local students. The College Board eliminated the analogies section, prompting many to rejoice. The addition of a writing section, however, was met with less enthusiasm.
The scoring scale will also change for the new SAT, with the top score 2,400 instead of 1,600, causing more confusion among students.
Regardless of which test or tests students decide to take, preparation is the key.
Logsdon plans to take the ACT again this year and be more prepared than she was last year.
“Last time I didn’t prepare,” she said. “This time I will probably go to a Super Saturday.”
Hickman offers Super Saturdays twice a year to give students a chance to prepare for the ACT. They can take a practice test in the morning and receive tutoring from teachers in the afternoon. For many students, these Saturdays are a less expensive test-preparation option. Classes offered by companies such as Kaplan and Princeton Review can cost up to $700.
Landis acknowledges that while it is nice for some students to have that kind of help, it is hard to know how much they get out of it. She said there is a lot students can do to prepare on their own.
Shpend Ibraim, a Hickman senior who will take the ACT for the second time this fall, is studying on his own. Ibraim bought computer software to help him prepare for the test, which he said he thinks students are better suited to take as seniors.
“It’s a fair test if you are a senior, but not if you are a sophomore or junior,” he said. “There is a lot on the test that you don’t learn until junior or senior year.”
Ibraim and Logsdon said they both think they will fare better on the test now that they know what to expect. Only one problem remains for Ibraim.
“There is just not enough time to take the test,” he said. “It’s impossible to finish.”