Updated SAT/ACT Concordance Tables… What do they mean?

College Board (the producer of the SAT) and ACT, Inc. (the producer of the ACT) regularly compete as the nation’s top college admission testing companies. Recently, ACT and College Board actually collaborated to release new, accurate concordance tables to allow students, colleges, parents, etc. to compare SAT and ACT scores. What does that mean for you? For many of our students, it simply means that more research supports the score comparison they were already using, because much of the table didn’t change. However, at the high end of the score ranges, the equivalent ACT score is higher than was originally thought, and at the low end of the score ranges, the reverse is true: the equivalent ACT score is lower now.

Let me give you some examples.

  • High-scoring student: Under the original concordance tables released by the College Board in May of 2016, a student who scored a 1550 on the SAT was considered to have scored the equivalent of a 34 composite on the ACT. However, under the new tables, that same 1550 on the SAT is considered to be the equivalent to a 35 on the ACT.
  • Low-scoring student: At the other end of the score spectrum, a student who scored a 650 on the SAT was originally considered to have the equivalent of a 12 on the ACT. The new tables have revised this 650 on the SAT to be the equivalent of an 11 on the ACT.
  • Student near the national average: In the middle of the score distribution, a student who scored a 1000 on the SAT was considered to have scored the equivalent of a 19 on the ACT. Using the new tables, that 1000 on the SAT is still considered to be the equivalent of a 19 on the ACT.

Beyond allowing for the comparison of overall (total and composite) scores, the new Concordance Tables also allow for the comparison of some section scores (SAT Math vs. ACT Math and SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing vs. ACT English + Reading). This will allow students to make a more informed decision when comparing their performances on the two tests, rather than having to guesstimate what the “equivalent” score on the same section would be.

Okay, that’s all well and good, but what are you supposed to DO with the information in the new concordance tables? Well, we always recommend that our students try out each test—risk-free. We recommend that you take a free official practice test for both the SAT and the ACT (your PSAT can also serve as your “SAT” score for this comparison), and then decide which test is a better fit for YOU. Ignore the rumors you’ve heard: that the SAT is for reading/writing people and the ACT is for math people, or that the ACT is “easier”, or that the SAT is what colleges in Texas prefer (not true!). Instead, try out each test and let the data help drive your decision.

If you score considerably higher on one test than the other, your decision will be easy. If, like most students, you score comparably on the two tests, then there are other factors to consider. Which one did you feel more comfortable with (or prefer the most)? Which one have you prepared for the most? How attached are you to your calculator—or to your formula sheet? How do you feel about time pressure? All of these questions can help you choose the most appropriate test for you. We can also help you make this decision—we are happy to sit down with you and your parents for a free thirty-minute consultation, during which we will look at your scores and your goals and help you design an individualized test preparation plan. Just call our office at (512) 453-7272 and schedule a free consultation with one of our test preparation experts.

ACT Academy is LIVE… and I would give it 0 stars if I could

Some of you may have heard about ACT Academy, the new, free, targeted online preparation for the ACT. I got a very excited-sounding email from ACT, Inc. a few weeks ago announcing that this feature was available for use. Since students (and parents) frequently ask me where to find additional practice for the ACT, I decided to check the site out for myself.

Unfortunately, I was very disappointed with what I found. My biggest complaint is that the quiz questions all appear to come from a released practice test (the 2012 test, in case you were wondering). Granted, I’ve only completed about a fifth of the quizzes so far, but all of the questions that I saw were disturbingly familiar. The practice test that is offered on the site is also reused—it is the 2015 test, the most recent practice test available. Not only is this problematic in that some students will have seen the questions before, but it also means that there are two fewer full-length practice tests available to students who have used ACT Academy.

Another concern that I have is the small number of quizzes available—for about a quarter of the topics, there is only one quiz available, making it difficult to assess learning. For almost half of the topics, there are only two. When you miss a question on a quiz, by the way, the only explanation currently available is “Rationale: incorrect”. Not very helpful!

The content on the Resources page is inadequate, to say the least. Nearly all of the content on the Resources page is videos, despite advertising about games and rap songs. (Actually, the lack of rap songs might be a good thing.) More concerning, though, is the fact that the videos don’t seem to be ACT-specific. In fact, I found a video in the resources for the Reading Test that was designed for an AP English class. Additionally, the Science Test resources include a video entitled “AP Biology Practice 5”. In it, the narrator describes what “the College Board will ask.” The College Board, maker of the SAT, is ACT, Inc.’s biggest competitor!

Many of the resources seem designed to teach students the content that they should have learned in the classes that are supposed to prepare them for the ACT (their Algebra, Geometry, other math, and English classes, in particular), rather than teaching students about concepts that the ACT considers to be particularly important (and therefore is likely to ask questions about). For instance, I found videos about ellipses and parabolas, but none about circles—the one type of conic that is often included in the test. I also found videos about how to use a ruler, how to write a summary, and how to create a dot plot—none of which are relevant for the ACT. Additionally, while videos demonstrating a skill or explaining a concept can be helpful, they offer no way for students to practice the skill or test their understanding.

Interestingly, I have found no mention whatsoever of the Writing Test on this website. However, many of the resources for the English Test (which covers revising and editing) are more likely to be helpful for the Writing Test (the essay).

The Tips & Strategies page is helpful, but all of the information is included in the free “Preparing for the ACT” guide, which also includes the most recently released practice test.

One feature that could be useful, but that I am unable to test, is the option to enter results from an ACT or Pre-ACT (my scores are too old!). If this feature is actually used to guide a student’s practice, it has the potential to be useful. If it just means that the student doesn’t have to take the quizzes to have a starting point, it’s probably not going to be very helpful.

Overall, I would not recommend ACT Academy at this point. My recommendation (to get more benefit out of the same free materials) would be to come take a free, proctored practice ACT (or, if you’re not in the Austin area, download the test here [you’ll need pages 11-51, 57-60, and 64] and print it out—take it with a pencil, like you will the real test!). When you score your test, DON’T mark the correct answers! Just mark the questions you got wrong, and keep moving. Afterwards (and after you’ve taken a break), review the questions that you missed. Actually re-attempt each question, and see if you can figure out where you went wrong. For any concepts you’re really stumped on (maybe you don’t remember how to use a semicolon, or have forgotten the formula for area of a trapezoid), look them up online. Generally, you’ll be able to find an explanation from a quick Google (or YouTube) search. Once you’ve reviewed the concepts, take the second practice test by signing up for another free practice ACT, or downloading it here.

At this point, you will have used the same materials available on ACT Academy, but in a more focused and productive manner. And, as a bonus, you’ll have scores available from both of these practice tests, rather than just the first one (since you will have taken the 2012 test as a full-length test instead of as a series of untimed, unscored quizzes).

If you’re looking for even more preparation, you can explore our ACT class and private tutoring options, or call our office at (512) 453-7272 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation designed to help you plan your test preparation.

If the site improves (which I hope it will), I will post an updated review and suggestions for best use. But, for now, I would just avoid it.