Introduction to Standardized Testing and its Evolution

Standardized testing has been a crucial part of the college admissions process in the United States for several decades. The two most prominent and widely accepted college entrance exams are the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and the American College Testing (ACT). These exams consist of various sections designed to evaluate a student’s academic capabilities in critical reading, mathematics, and writing.

The SAT was initially established in 1926 to identify talented students from different backgrounds who may have yet to attend prestigious schools. Over the years, the SAT has undergone several revisions to better align with the changing educational landscape. The ACT was presented in 1959 as an alternative to the SAT, focusing more on curriculum-based knowledge and testing in areas such as science reasoning.

While the primary aim of these standardized tests was to create an objective platform for colleges to assess a large pool of applicants, their usage in college admissions has sparked substantial debate. Let’s evaluate the positive and negative effects of these tests on the admission process, helping students decide whether to take these exams.

Pros of Standardized Testing

Objective Comparison

Standardized testing offers an objective means of comparing students from varying backgrounds and educational experiences. Colleges receive applications from across the country and worldwide, and the SAT/ACT scores serve as a standard metric to compare applicants.

Demonstrating Academic Potential

For students needing strong GPA scores or extracurricular activities, achieving a high SAT/ACT score can allow them to showcase their academic potential to colleges during admission.

Preparation for College-Level Work

The process of preparing for the SAT/ACT can help students develop essential study skills and learning strategies that will be beneficial for success in college.

Cons of Standardized Testing

Impact of Test Preparation

Standardized tests have spawned a massive test-preparation industry, with courses and tutoring services that can be expensive and may favor wealthy students who can afford these resources. This could create a socio-economic divide in test-taking performance.

High-Stress Levels

High-stakes testing has been known to cause significant stress and anxiety for students. The pressure to perform well on these tests might negatively impact students’ mental health and overall academic performance.

Potential for Bias or Discrimination

Critics argue that standardized tests may be culturally biased, disadvantaging specific student populations, especially underrepresented minorities and students from low-income families. Differences in test scores may not accurately reflect the students’ abilities or potential but instead reveal existing disparities in educational resources and opportunities.

Which Is Easier, the SAT or the ACT?

The SAT and ACT are two different tests, so it is difficult to answer this question definitively. Both exams have sections that measure the same skillset but in different ways. Generally speaking, the SAT focuses more on reasoning and problem-solving, while the ACT may be more accessible for students better at memorizing and recalling facts.

Ultimately, the best way to determine which test suits you is to take practice tests and identify your strengths and weaknesses to determine which exam will better showcase your skills.

Additionally, considering the time limit of both tests may help you make an informed decision. The SAT has more questions in three hours than the ACT, so if time management is challenging, the ACT might be a better option.

How Is My SAT/ACT Score Used in College Admissions?

Your SAT/ACT score is only one of many factors that colleges consider when reviewing applications. While admission decisions are often based largely on academic performance, including official transcripts and letters of recommendation, standardized test scores can provide additional context to your academic profile.

Many colleges use your SAT/ACT score to determine which classes you should enroll in once admitted, and some merit scholarships require specific test scores as eligibility criteria.

A high score can make a good impression on admissions officers and potentially increase your chances of acceptance; however, lower scores do not necessarily indicate poor performance or lack of potential. Colleges look at the complete application package when making admission decisions.

What Is a Good SAT/ACT Score?

The SAT and ACT scoring systems are based on percentile rankings, meaning a “good” score depends on the performance of other test-takers in your graduating class. Generally, most competitive colleges look for applicants who score above the 75th percentile (or higher) on these exams.

However, it is essential to remember that each college has its own set of requirements and a range of scores they deem acceptable. It is best to contact the admissions office at the schools you are applying to to determine what score you should aim for during your SAT/ACT preparation.

How Can I Improve My SAT/ACT Score?

Improving your SAT/ACT score is a multi-step process that requires careful preparation and practice. Begin by taking official practice tests to understand the format and types of questions you will be asked during the exam. Afterward, focus on studying content in areas where you need extra help, such as math or science.

Finally, take more mock exams to practice your time management and build test-taking confidence. Additionally, consider enrolling in an online course or seeking out a tutor if you need extra guidance and support during your preparations. Dedication and hard work can improve your score and increase your chances of success on the SAT/ACT exams.


Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT are essential to the college admissions process. While they can provide an objective way to compare different applicants, it is necessary to be aware of the potential drawbacks associated with these tests.

Ultimately, students should weigh both the pros and cons before deciding whether to take these exams. With careful preparation and practice, students can improve their scores and enhance their chances of success on the SAT/ACT exams.