SAT overtakes ACT for highest number of test takers, but Northwestern students prefer the latter


Evan Robinson-Johnson/The Daily Northwestern

For the first time since 2011, the SAT beat the ACT in number of test-takers during the 2017-18 school year. But Northwestern students overwhelmingly prefer the ACT over the SAT.

Sophia Scanlan, Reporter

Northwestern students overwhelmingly prefer the ACT over the SAT, defying new national trends that show diminished ACT popularity.

For the first time since 2011, the SAT beat the ACT in number of test-takers during the 2017-18 school year, with a record 2.1 million opting for the SAT and 1.9 million choosing the ACT, according to a College Board news release last month.

Jane Dapkus, the vice president of college readiness assessments for the College Board, which administers the SAT, said she attributes the increase in test-takers to SAT School Day, a program that invites students to take the test at school during regular hours. This year, nearly 1 million students took advantage of the program, up from last year’s 800,000.

“We’ve seen a remarkable expansion in participation, and we expect the program to grow even more in the coming years,” Dapkus said in the release.

In 2017, Illinois began requiring its public schools to administer the SAT during the school day to students instead of the ACT, the test the state previously required.

Weinberg freshman Fizzah Jaffer, who attended Lincoln-Way West High School in New Lenox, Illinois, said while she appreciated the SAT School Day program, she still preferred taking standardized tests at a location away from campus.

“Being in a classroom where you have your regular classes makes the test harder for some reason,” Jaffer said. “It was so draining, especially if you’ve been sitting there for five hours then have to go to class afterwards.”

Weinberg freshman Catherine Malnati, who attended Jones College Prep High School in Chicago, agreed, saying the classroom setting made her feel as though she was competing with her peers.

However, she said she thought the SAT School Day was a good option for students to have, since it was free of charge.

“I thought this gave everyone a fair opportunity to take the test, as time and finance barriers were removed, so I liked that aspect of it,” Malnati said.

Last year at Northwestern, 77 percent of incoming freshmen submitted ACT scores, while 35 percent submitted SAT scores, including those who submitted both. But at some schools, like Stanford and Harvard, more students choose to submit SAT scores.

More than a third of NU’s incoming class typically comes from Illinois and the rest of the Midwest, where the ACT remains a staple among college applicants.

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