The facts behind standardized testing


Students anxiously stare ahead as the proctor rambles on, listing the rules and guidelines for the standardized test that sits in front of the students. For the next couple of hours, students will scramble to choose the correct bubble, hoping that their schooling has prepared them for this point.

Regardless of which standardized test a student takes, their score will stick with them as they begin the college application process. The two most popular standardized tests, the ACT and the SAT, differ in name and format, but both suffice as ways of measuring a student’s college readiness.

According to, the SAT and the ACT are practically identical, meaning that the information and the layout of the test is very similar. Although they are so similar, the many different sections in the test allow students to show different abilities and strengths.

The SAT has four sections and the ACT has five sections. Both including optional essays. Both tests have reading and math sections, but the SAT has a reading and writing section while the ACT has an English section and a science reasoning section.

DGS math teacher Kara Painter says those who excel at math more than English should take the ACT over the SAT because it contains higher levels of math, whereas the SAT only consists of the basics.

The mathematical content covered on the ACT spans higher level mathematics but some of the questions are pretty straight-forward.  The content on the SAT is focused on applying basic algebra and geometry.  There are a lot of questions that are symbolic in nature or focused around applications,” Painter said.

As stated on, the length of both tests is very similar and only differs by five minutes without the essay and 10 minutes with the essay. Junior Allison Calek has taken both the SAT and the ACT and explained that for her, the ACT felt a lot longer than the SAT.

“After taking both the ACT and the SAT I think that the ACT is easier. I felt like the ACT was a lot longer.  For example, there were a lot of questions but there wasn’t a lot of time to answer them.  Although the SAT felt shorter, the questions, I thought were harder,” Calek said.

While Calek thought the SAT was easier, senior Alyssa York, who has also taken both of the tests, feels differently about which test requires more input.

“The SAT was easier because the science portion was taken off so there was less stress,” York said.

Additionally, York felt more prepared for the SAT than the ACT because she took SAT prep classes prior to taking the exam.

“The SAT [was less trouble] because there’s a lot less stress and I felt more prepared [for it] because of the SAT prep classes,” York said.

There are many ways to prepare for each of these tests, and it can also show improvement when retaking the test. Assistant Principal Vincent Walsh-Rock suggests that websites like help students with improvement when they retake the SAT.

“For some students there is an improvement, especially if they practice using Khan Academy for SAT or similar ACT test prep,” Walsh-Rock said.

These tests can have a major effect on college applications, but many colleges now don’t require that students have SAT and ACT scores. George Washington University and American InterContinental University are two of 800 that don’t require a SAT or an ACT scores to get in.