Empowering Athletes for a Life Without Limits

The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) and ACT (American College Testing)  - collectively known as standardized tests - have been critical elements of the college admissions process for decades. Although the landscape of standardized testing has changed greatly, with many universities providing the choice for students to go “test optional” when applying, writing a test can enhance a student’s chance of getting into competitive universities. Top US colleges such as Harvard, UC Berkeley, and Stanford have provided the option to not submit an SAT or ACT score when applying, however, the majority of students who did apply to those universities submitted either an SAT or ACT score.

Differences between the SAT and ACT

While each test is important for college admissions, their structures do have some key differences. Starting in 2024, the SAT in the United States will shift from pencil-paper format to an onscreen-only. The length of the test has also been shortened from three hours to approximately two. The overall test day will also be shorter, with the student questionnaire being completed before test day and there no longer being a need to deal with physical test materials. The SAT test now includes two sections: reading/writing and math. Each section is divided into two modules, the second of which cannot be answered before completing the first. The questions that students are given in the second module depend on their performance in the first. The digital test will be taken on a laptop or tablet, using a digital application that is downloaded to the device in advance of test day. Despite all of these changes, the maximum SAT score will still remain at 1600, with all scores still being valued the same as on the former test format.

Unlike the SAT, the ACT has not undergone any major changes in recent years. It includes an English, math, reading, science, and an optional writing section that is required by some universities. With the optional writing section, the ACT test is three hours and 35 minutes long. Without the writing section, it is two hours and 55 minutes. Each section, barring the writing section, includes multiple choice questions with either four or five response options. The maximum achievable score for the ACT is 36.

Should student-athletes write an SAT or ACT if they are applying for a school with “optional” standardized testing?

According to Forbes, over 1,900 institutions (83 percent of four-year schools in the United States) moved to “ACT/SAT-optional, test-blind, or score-free admission procedures” in fall 2023. Nearly 1,800 schools have extended their policy through fall 2024. In short, due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on in-person standardized testing and issues of socioeconomic and racial disparity, the majority of schools have adopted test-optional policies and the bulk of those are set to continue with this approach, at least in the immediate future.

However, SAT/ACT-optional policies at institutions in a student-athlete’s recruitment pipeline does not mean that taking the SAT or ACT (and ideally scoring well) will not support your application. Institutions with test-optional policies still accept standardized test scores and a strong test score could be the difference between acceptance and rejection from the university. If you’re looking to be accepted into a school at which you’ll be competitive with other applicants, it is highly recommended to adequately prepare for and write either the SAT or ACT, even if it is not a “requirement.” Just like training or competition, the extra mile can go a long way.

If you’re seeking support with SAT or ACT test preparation, please submit your information in the form below and Streamline Athletes will put you in touch with our trusted partner for personalized student-athlete SAT and ACT test prep.

Which test should student-athletes take between the SAT and ACT?

It can be difficult to decide which standardized test to focus on or which test you’re more likely to test well on. The best way to determine that is to take practice tests of both exams to see what test structure and style of questions you feel more comfortable with.

It is possible to take both exams and submit both scores to universities, although there are no schools that require both SAT and ACT scores during the application. If one score is significantly stronger than the other - say a 35 on the ACT and a 1250 on the SAT - it might be best to only submit the stronger score.

These tests can prove tricky and it is important to gear your studying to the specific questions that will be asked of you.

Do you need help selecting the right standardized test for you? With Streamline Athletes’ trusted test prep partner, you’ll have access to industry leaders in SAT/ACT test prep, who can help you choose which exam is best suited for your learning style.

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