The ACT (American College Test) and the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) are universally used by college admissions personnel. These tests help determine which student applicants to admit to their college or university. They are also used in part to determine the amount of college financial aid the university will offer the incoming student to entice that student to attend their university versus some other higher education institution. The weight given these tests in the decision for admittance to the university or college as well as the financial aid that is offered varies from university to university. The point is, the tests do carry some weight and therefore are important. High school students need to prepare for the exam in an effort to score well. This can increase his or her chances to achieve more financial aid from their desired college.


What Do the Exams Test?

SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test)The SAT tests verbal and math aptitude and college readiness and has an optional essay portion. The new SAT costs $54.50 with the essay and $43 without the essay. The SAT is owned and administered by the College Board. The key word in this paragraph is the word “new”. The SAT has started to administer a new test which has caused some angst among the test takers. According to the Deseret News April 24, 2016, one college tutor speaking about the students taking the tests, was quoted as saying, “They don’t want to be guinea pigs for a national testing service. The unknown is always more frightening and adds to that the idea that the test sets the course for their future success makes it that much more scary”.


The ACT is similar in what it tests but also measures science skills. The ACT hasn’t made any significant changes to its core assessments in 30 years. Including the essay portion for ACT test takers, the cost is $56.50 and $39.50 without the essay.


Colleges sometimes have a preference between the tests. High school students need to determine early which test their chosen college or university accepts.


Competitive nature of College Admissions and Aid

An industry has sprung up around these tests. There are numerous companies, large and small throughout the country that charge significant fees to prepare high school students for these exams. The fee to take the exam is less than $60. The fees for tutors or exam preparation instruction range from several hundred dollars to as much as $3000.

The challenge lies in that the less affluent family can ill afford to pay for the prep courses. High school students from such families are left at a significant disadvantage to achieve the higher scores. These students may be as smart or. have an equal aptitude for their learning abilities or their ability to succeed at the college level. This also does not quantify the less financial aid they may be awarded or not awarded due to lower scores on the tests.

It is totally understandable for colleges and universities to want some measure to assess a high school student’s ability to successfully navigate a college degree. Colleges and universities success rates are measured on entering students versus graduating students. With all that being said, hopefully, colleges and universities are giving the proper weighting to these exams.


College entrance testHow Many Times Should You Take the Exam?

Taking the exam or exams multiple times is not a bad idea. There is no shame in attempting to improve your scores and show your improvement. Most students improve their scores after retaking the exams. An exam is just a measure of what you have learned and your ability to learn by exams.


The Big Business of Exams!

In 2015, 59% of graduating high school seniors, or more than 1.92 million students took the ACT. The SAT was taken by 1.7 million students If 1.92 million students took the ACT at $39.50 that represents for the ACT over $75 million in gross revenue. If some of these 1.92 million students took it more than once it adds up to more money. The SAT at $43 minimum represents over $73 million. Combined the test business represents close to $150 million a year for the two standardized testing measures.


People might consider designing a new test that would introduce the same measures as the Sat and ACT, but somehow rate the learning abilities of the high school population. A new test would have a very expensive uphill battle to displace these huge companies. Not to mention the task of convincing colleges and universities to understand and accept a new assessment test.


With all of this, the higher education business is BIG BUSINESS, and the exams are big business. Parents of high school students and the students need to decide how to play the game with BIG BUSINESS!

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