Friday, 4 March 2005

College entrance exams

The Times today also has a piece on the trend of more students taking both the ACT and SAT, due in part to recent changes to the SAT. I found this passage in the article somewhat disturbing, however:

“There’s almost no reason not to take ACT,” said Lisa Jacobson, chief executive of Inspirica, a tutoring and test preparation company in New York. “The only significant reason not to is if a kid is totally stressed out, and doesn’t want to spend another Saturday taking tests.”

Students have nothing to lose by taking the ACT, she and others say, because they can take the test as many times as they want and choose which scores, if any, to send to colleges—a calming option for students with severe test anxieties. In contrast, all SAT scores are sent to all colleges a student applies to. [emphasis mine]

Doesn’t this fact shoot any meaningful comparability between the two tests straight to hell, despite the well-known “equivalency tables” between the two exams?


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[Permalink] 1. TigerHawk wrote @ Fri, 4 Mar 2005, 7:47 am CST:

Yes, it does. Either both should allow cherry-picking, or both should not. Or colleges should recognize that the scores cannot be compared.


I actually took the ACT and NOT the SAT and would have gotten into any college of choice with my score, and I only took it once. I was not even aware of a chance to take it multiple times and send only the scores you liked. However, I prefer the ACT‘s multi-intelligence model as opposed to the binary Math/Language composition of the SAT..
And from what I’ve read, the SAT has very little ability to predict success in school anyway, so what does it matter?


I wonder if the low correlation (which isn’t that low, like .49, which means it explains roughly 25% of the variance in grades) is at least partially due to the fact that the SAT (and ACT) is really used as a screening device—get below a certain score, and you’re often automatically disqualified; you’d really need to do some sort of censored regression (e.g. a tobit model) to see the actual effect on grades.

Plus, a 3.0 at Millsaps and a 3.0 at Ole Miss (much less Hinds Community College) ain’t the same thing, so you gotta adjust for that.

I also think the ACT and SAT have two different goals; the ACT is more a “knowledge” test while the SAT (and its cousins, the GRE and GMAT) has a more psychometric, “general intelligence” heritage.


Incidentally, I took the ACT once and the SAT twice.


I did too – SAT twice, ACT once, – that was normal for my HS. And I did almost exactly the same on all three tests with the exception of the SAT math, where I came up on the math portion the 2nd time I took it (probably because I’d had more math at that point, and my ACT was in line with my 2nd SAT results).

And I agree with bryan on the SATs not being able to predict success in school – mine were great and I dropped out in my freshman year. But then I read in HS somewhere that students who scored over a certain threshold had binary success prospects: many of them went on to get straight A’s and go the grad school, but they were also more likely than students who scored lower to drop out of college. Have no idea if that’s true, but I found it interesting at the time, and it certainly held true in my case.

Got into a great school and did fine academically while I was there, but lost interest and dropped out. But then I would have preferred to work a few years before going in the first place – I just wasn’t ready.

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