ACT to SAT: The Change and What It Means For Students

Jessica Lim, Contributor

For fifteen years, Illinois has issued the ACT as its standardized test. But in December of 2015, the Board of Education declared that they would be switching to the rival SAT as the official exam after the College Board won a three year, $14.3 million bid to take the ACT’s place, which was $1.37 million less than what the ACT had proposed.

Illinois passed a law last summer requiring that a college entrance exam be included in the state’s testing cycle. SAT was the plan for this year; however, time and funding issues for the new SAT proved to be a problem without a state budget to back this decision. Dozens of school districts have already signed up to administer the ACT this spring, some schools taking the cost upon themselves. Despite the uncertainty on whether the state will pay for the test, some 143,000 high school juniors in Illinois are preparing to take the redesigned SAT in March. As for the changes, the ISBE had decided after reevaluating both of the exams that the SAT was better aligned with standards for what teens are expected to know by a certain point in their education.

Considering nearly all colleges accept both tests, does it matter which one you take? It depends on the student and on what his or her academic strengths are. According to the Princeton Review, “the major difference is in how the concepts are tested and the steps students will have to take to solve problems correctly.” A common way of thinking was that while the ACT is geared more towards math and sciences, the SAT benefits those who are better at reading and English. That proposition does not apply to the new SAT, as both tests now cover the same math concepts of Arithmetic, Algebra I and II, Geometry and Trigonometry. The test also follows a new format seeing that the SAT no longer deducts points for wrong answers, only four answer choices are provided instead of five(like the ACT), and sentence completion practice has been removed. Although there are fewer sections on the new test, they are longer in time than the old version. In light of these changes, this year’s juniors will be the first ones to judge its differences and give the College Board their feedback. Due to the Illinois budget situation, many schools are split between the ACT and the SAT, but by the 2017-2018 school year, it is projected that every school will be giving the SAT.