The ACT and SAT: Do They Matter?


Brynna B. '20

Students often spend several months preparing for the SAT or ACT with expensive prep books that break down each section of the test.

It’s that time of year again: millions of juniors across the country are buckling down to take the ACT and the SAT, wondering why on earth they are willingly subjecting themselves to the horror of these tests that are over three hours long. A large number of Padua students choose to take both the ACT and the SAT—several times.

By February, the seniors have finished all their testing for college applications. Missy Marazzo, a senior, said she ended up taking the SAT three times and the ACT once.

“Personally, I’m not very good at standardized tests, I never have been,” she said. “I took the SAT three times because I knew that my original low scores would make my applications look weaker.”

She explained that she took both tests to see which she was better at. However, even after taking both, she admitted that she didn’t really know the difference between the two.

“It seems the same to me,” she said. “Except one [the ACT] has a science section and one doesn’t.”

Junior Sara Stoupa agrees. Although she has not taken the SAT yet, she has taken the PSATs three times, and took the ACT for the first time earlier this month. She explained that she did some research on the difference, and although she knows that the math and science sections are different, the rest seemed very similar.

“I guess the ACT requires better time management,” she said. “I remember being surprised when I found out how fast each section [on the ACT] went.”

Mr. Lang agrees with both students, explaining that the only real difference is formatting and timing.

“You should take both because some students do better on one test than the other,” He said. “The necessary evil testing sometimes is… the better you do on these tests, the better opportunities that will be available to you, in terms of colleges that you want to go to and the scholarship money that’s available to you.”

Marazzo, however, thinks this “necessary evil” isn’t necessary at all. She wished more colleges would move towards using alternatives such as personal interview, or providing a digital portfolio, particularly for students who struggle with standardized tests.

“I understand that… standardized tests make the playing field very level for students across the nation,” she said. “But because I don’t do well on these tests, it makes colleges think less of me as a person, even though my scores don’t reflect any aspect of my being.”

Because I don’t do well on these tests, it makes colleges think less of me as a person, even though my scores don’t reflect any aspect of my being.”

— Missy Marazzo

Stoupa also admits that she thinks there could be a better way to screen college applicants.

“There could be a better process that could be more finely tuned to your intended major or general field of study,” Stoupa said. “There’s definitely a lot of room to improve in terms of making the test more adept at measuring the knowledge of the student rather than each individual’s ability to take standardized tests.”

Mr. Lang also finds issues with many aspects of the SAT and the ACT. “It’s crazy to think that a test will determine your success in college,” he said. “The best way to predict a student’s success in college is their success in high school. And that’s worked out for our students so far here at Padua. Our students work very hard, and in my mind, as long as a student has a great work ethic going to college, she will be successful in college.”