ACT & SAT Scores Remain Stable
Despite the expected confusion about the meaning of the first annual SAT scores reported under the recentered scale (see Examiner, Spring 1994), there was little real news in this year's release of test results for high school seniors who graduated last spring. Both ACT and SAT scores rose slightly from the previous year, as they have in the recent past, and the relative standing of racial, gender and income groups remained unchanged (see charts).
Perhaps of more lasting impact was the intensive effort of the promoters of both exams to get the public to refer to the tests solely by their shortened names. As first reported by FairTest (see Examiner, Fall 1994), the College Board wants its exams to be called SAT I (formerly Scholastic Aptitude Test and then Scholastic Assessment Test) and SAT II (former Achievement Tests). In a memo to reporters the College Board said, "SAT is not an initialism; it does not stand for anything." Truer words were never spoken.
Not to be outdone, the College Board's main competitor announced that it wants to be identified as simply ACT, not American College Testing.
Whatever they are to be called, the tests purport to measure "readiness" for college studies using very different approaches. (In fact, neither test claims to account for even one-fifth of the difference in students' first year college grades). While the SAT is still proudly "curriculum free" and based on such esoteric topics as "analogy" and "quantitative comparison" problems, the ACT is much more closely linked to the subjects regularly studied in high school. The SAT is also "formula scored" with a penalty for wrong answers to deter wild guessing while the ACT is "correct answer scored" with no deduction for errors.
The fact that the SAT is a fast-paced, multiple-choice mind game with a premium on strategic guessing, while the ACT is more like a classroom exam (though still in the multiple-choice format) is one reason the SAT's gender gap is so much larger. It may also explain the slightly larger racial differences on the SAT than on the ACT.
1996 COLLEGE BOUND SENIORS
|SAT I Scores||V||M||V+M|
|All Test Takers||505||508||1013|
|Annual Family Income||SAT I V+M|
|less than $10,000||873|
|$10,000 - $20,000||920|
|$20,000 - $30,000||964|
|$30,000 - $40,000||992|
|$40,000 - $50,000||1016|
|$50,000 - $60,000||1034|
|$60,000 - $70,000||1049|
|$70,000 - $80,000||1064|
|$80,000 - $100,000||1085|
|more than $100,000||1129|
source: College Board, 1996 Profile of College Bound Seniors.
|American Indian/Alaskan Native||18.8|
|Asian American/Pacific Islander||21.6|
|Puerto Rican/Cuban/Other Hispanic||18.9|
|All Test Takers||20.9|
source: ACT, 1996 ACT Assessment Results.
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