Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dr. Branch Continues to Examine Academic Rigor by Discussing the ACT

In the last few weeks, we have reviewed academic rigor in our school system through the lens of Advanced Placement course offerings and SAT scores. A growing trend among students throughout the United States is to also assess their college readiness by sitting for the ACT. Oconee County students have embraced this challenge as well and are now utilizing both the ACT and SAT to determine and demonstrate college and career readiness.

But what is the ACT? Why is it important? How does it differ from the SAT?

The ACT is a curriculum-based achievement test made up of four sections – English, math, reading, and science, with an optional writing section. The tests are scored on a 1 to 36 scale and the four sections are averaged to provide a composite score. More specifically, the ACT is considered an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school.

In comparison, the SAT is made up of three sections – math, reading, and writing – each worth 800 points, with a combined possible total score of 2400. The SAT is more of an aptitude test designed to test reasoning and verbal abilities.

Both the SAT and ACT are widely accepted by colleges and universities around the United States. Yet, according to the ACT website, the measure is increasingly becoming the preferred test by four-year institutions.

Since 2008, when the number of students in Oconee County schools taking the ACT stood at 189, there has been a 27 percent increase in ACT test takers. In 2012, 257 Oconee County students sat for the ACT and compiled an average composite score of 23.3 – outperforming both the state (20.7) and national (21.1) averages. Below is a five-year national comparison:

What are your thoughts about these highly-regarded tests? Should they continue to play a prominent role in college admissions? Is one test better than the other? What trends do you see in our students’ scores?

As always, I look forward to your insight. You can share your thoughts with me via email at

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