ACT president: Take admissions test you're comfortable with

Monday , June 23, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Special to The Washington Post

In 2012, the ACT surpassed the SAT as the most widely used college admission test in the country. But the president of the testing organization that leads the market advises students to take whichever exam suits them — or both.

ACT President Jon L. Erickson spoke this month with The Washington Post about the two tests. Approximately 1.8 million U.S. students in the Class of 2013 took the ACT, compared with 1.5 million who took the SAT. Here are excerpts of the interview.

Q: Why should someone choose to take the ACT?

Erickson: I would say choose a test that you’re most comfortable with. And some students are more comfortable with one or the other. Depends on the format, depends on the content, depends on the opportunity to take it. Depends on the schools, if they have a true preference. But more so, I’d say consider taking both because you may do better on one than the other.

Q: That’s a diplomatic answer. But why should one take the ACT?

Erickson: I think the ACT is a fair exam. I think the ACT is more comfortable. It’s what a student experiences in school, and so there’s not an anxiety or an unknown gamesmanship to it. I think the ACT allows a student to look at themselves across a broader range of skills, including science.

Q: There’s a notion out there that the ACT is “easier” than the SAT. Is this true?

Erickson: There’s a notion from some people, probably, that the ACT is harder. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. The ACT is a challenging exam, and it has a full range of questions. But there’s no evidence to suggest one’s easier than the other.

Q: A growing number of colleges say testing is optional. What is your response?

Erickson: There’s some test fatigue going on. I think there’s also been an overfocus, an overreliance, perhaps, on a test as a sole measure, as a sole determinant, as a sole indicator. And we, to our bone, reject that notion. We think testing is one component of a good decision. We can gather a lot of comparable and important information from testing. But it [has] to be in the context of students’ goals, interests, behaviors, other measures, grade points, teacher evaluations. Making any decision in life, you should have a lot of information to draw from — because some of it may be contradictory. Making a decision on one piece, like a test, is a dangerous practice.

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