Redesigned SAT is prospective ACT replacement

New SAT set to release this coming March

Maya Kowitt, Staff Reporter

Illinois has decided to swap out its widely known college entrance exam given free to juniors in high school–the ACT–with its competitor, the SAT.

According to testing coordinator, Peg Stevens, Illinois wants to make sure that every junior in the state can take a test for free: “That’s why we do a district ACT for all juniors, and that’s why the district pays for one free official college entrance exam per year. The goal of the state is for it to be the same concept, but it might be the SAT this time,” said Stevens.

It’s a continuous debate for juniors in high school regarding which college admission exam is suitable for them, with the ACT being the popular pick for juniors in the midwest.

Junior Joe Akason has already taken the ACT but says he’s curious about the possible changes he heard the SAT has in store.

“For the SAT currently, students are penalized for guessing. I think that’s what makes the ACT more popular because the idea of not being able to guess, especially in a time crunch, discourages students.”

Stevens contends that there are going to be many changes to the SAT, in an effort to make it more favorable and have more qualities like those of the ACT:

“Basically this new SAT is going to be more in line with an ACT, so that it becomes more in line with students, basically making the SAT into an ACT.”

These differences that Stevens speaks of include an overall change in multiple sections of the test. In the old SAT, there were three sections, math, critical reading, and writing, and that’s how they would get those scores ranging from 600-2400.

This scoring is “intimidating” according to junior Marissa Greif, who feels when compared to the simple composite 1-36 scale for the ACT, it makes the SAT seem less appealing: “Students don’t want to be scared or intimidated when going into a college admission test.”

Stevens defends that the new SAT has changes that will make it more appealing to juniors, including the same time given to students for taking the test, but less questions, going from a current 171 question test with a required essay, to a 154 questioned test with an optional essay.

Stevens said that the first administration of the new SAT will be in March of 2016: “There will be no penalty for guessing, and the required sections for the test are math and evidence-based reading and writing.”

The testing coordinator continued with a comparison of the two rival tests: “The ACT consists of four tests, 215 questions and given 2 hours and 15 minutes plus an additional 40 minute optional essay, whereas with the new SAT, it’s three tests, 154 questions and given 3 hours plus a 50 minute optional essay.”

With the ACT being such a popular test for students in the Midwest, post-high school counselor Michael O’Connor believes that there won’t be a significant shift for students choosing to take the new SAT.

O’Connor furthered his statement saying: “The ACT is a known test, so with this new SAT they’ve talked about new tests and new questions, but until there’s a way to prep for it and a few years worth of data, there’s no guarantee as to how many students will abandon their preference of the ACT.”

Junior Francis Fay supports O’Connor’s claim: “I don’t want to take the SAT because I don’t know much about it. I’m interested in learning about the SAT, I feel as though the ACT is the norm and it will take students a while to become accustomed to these changes.”

Many students aren’t even informed about the changes of the SAT. Junior Nora Day explained her absence of knowledge on the SAT, in an area where the ACT is such a favorable test, “At first I wasn’t sure because I feel like the ACT is what everyone takes, but now that I’ve heard about the possible changes, I want to take the SAT. The new SAT sounds interesting, because it’s different from what people have done every year.”

Similar to Day, many students including junior RJ Meyer agree that though they feel the new SAT seems to be heading in the right direction of attracting more students from the Midwest, it’s difficult to simply switch because many are already invested in the “ACT process,” says Meyer.

“I feel like many juniors would agree that they don’t plan on taking the SAT because many of us have already been tutoring and worrying about the ACT, it’s not worth the extra angst by taking both,” said Meyer adding, “We’re all just stressed.”

As a post-high school counselor, O’Connor sees the stress that juniors like Meyer feel throughout the year.

“I think the SAT is just another thing people need to prep for unless they want to dedicate preparing for it. They may say ‘why don’t I just do the same prep as my older brother or older sister, and stick to the ACT’”.

While this transition from ACT to SAT is in the works, it’s not done yet because according The Chicago Tribune, “A protest has been sparked from ACT, which could potentially derail a three-year, $14.3 million contract to the non-profit College Board that provides the SAT.”

The Tribune reports that in the summer of 2015, a new law took effect that required a college entrance exam to be included in the state testing cycle.

By that time, the ACT contract with the state had ended and a competitive process for a new contract came into effect. “The state is broke, and they’re looking for the best deal and the highest test scores,” said Stevens referring to why Illinois may be switching to the SAT as the “better deal.”

It’s still a question as to whether this new SAT will even come into play, but it looks like we’ll know for sure in March of 2016.

Until then, juniors feel as though they are still going to commit to the ACT and make no promises on whether they feel like they would even attempt to take the new SAT, saying its “additional work,” according to Greif.