ACT Becoming More Popular

By Staff
August 21, 2009

The ACT, an achievement test which is taken as an alternative to the College Board's SAT, is slowly and steadily becoming more popular as a college entrance exam.

At Harris County High School in Georgia, 159 students took the ACT in 2009--nearly 60 more than the year before, reports the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia. According to Sydney Caldwell, lead counselor at the school, the SAT is generally better for students who can process new information they see for the first time on a test. The ACT, meanwhile, is preferable for students who can apply information they have already learned.

"We're advising students to take the test that is best for them," he said.

Traditionally, the ACT is required for admission by colleges in the Midwest and South, while the SAT is preferred by colleges on the East and West Coasts. The ACT has four sections--English, reading, math and science, along with an optional writing section.

In South Carolina, the number of students who opted to take the ACT is higher than ever. The Spartanburg Herald Journal reports that 16.5 percent more public school students took the ACT in 2009 than the year before.

Quincie Moore, an assistant superintendant for curriculum and instruction, explained that school officials are trying to make sure that students take the college entrance exam that is best suited to them. The ACT, Moore noted, "is a more well-rounded test. We're trying to make sure the right kids are taking the right test."

The Wheaton Gazette in Maryland reports that other factors are luring more students to the ACT. According to Stephen L. Bedford, chief school performance officer in Montgomery County, students began looking into different options when the SAT started to include a writing section, which lengthened the test to four hours. The ACT, meanwhile, has 215 questions and takes about three hours to complete, not including the optional writing test. Moreover, students taking the SAT lose one-quarter of a point for each incorrect multiple choice answer, but they lose nothing for incorrect or blank answers on the ACT.

"As more kids pick this up and take [the ACT], if they do well on it they tell other kids to try it out," said Bedford.

In 2007, 138 Montgomery County seniors took just the ACT--just 1 percent of all seniors who took college entrance exams that year. In 2008, the number rose to 356 seniors, or 4 percent--an all-time high.

The Gazette also makes note of another interesting trend: More students are taking both the SAT and ACT to increase their chances of college admission. In 2007, 1,599 seniors, or 16 percent of all test takers, took both tests. Last year, the number went up to 1,986 seniors, or 20 percent.

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