Colleges that cherry-pick or super-score the best sections give an advantage to students who take the same test multiple times. Over the last few months, more colleges have embraced super-scoring the ACT. At this point, the majority are committed to super-scoring this test. By our rough survey, it’s about 55 percent of colleges. About 95 percent are committed to super-scoring the SAT, so there is still an advantage for SAT by these standards.
This is the big mystery; because of the new, arguably unreliable SAT scale, some colleges are downplaying SAT scores this year. At these particular colleges, this helps the 4.0 student who lacks a great SAT score, but hurts every other student. The ACT has not changed its multiple choice significantly. We have no evidence of a diminution in college acceptance of the ACT.
Because it has changed so little, the ACT is the more coachable test. Diligent students, whether on their own or with a tutor, who seek actual past tests for practice have only two on the SAT side. By contrast, the ACT provides 16 past tests that are either in current format or the very-close-to-current past format. Test-taking and time-management strategies used for the ACT are all in play, whereas some of those strategies that worked well for the SAT are no longer applicable.
Both the SAT and ACT essays have changed their format, their task and their scoring scales since July 2015. Neither is more coachable than the other. Colleges are very scattered in the way they are assessing the essays, but none has added importance to it and some have dropped the requirement altogether. Both the SAT and ACT make their essays an optional part of the test. Students can stay longer (40 minutes for ACT, 50 minutes for SAT) or choose to leave after the multiple choice sections have ended. Because essays are easy-to-coach, easy-to-improve-upon tasks, Ivy Bound recommends students polish their essay-writing skills if they are targeting a single college that assesses the essay.
SAT Subject Tests
These have not changed. However, their importance may increase at some colleges. Those who are downplaying the SAT, because of the uncertainty or loss in standard, have before them student records for the Subject Tests that have kept their integrity. Subject tests measure achievement on a national scale and many colleges need this when they cannot discern whether a B+ in science at one high school correlates with a B+ in science at another high school.