ACT v. SAT: Is either pre-college test better than the other?

College admission tests are under increased scrutiny, with some critics alleging that the standardized tests disadvantage underrepresented and low-income students. These allegations, along with fewer students taking the tests during the coronavirus pandemic, have questioned the overall value of such exams as the SAT and ACT.

Best Universities looked at ACT and College Board data to compare test trends, including how many students have taken the tests over time and their typical scores. Data looks at test-takers by each graduating class.

The SAT dates back to 1926, while the ACT was introduced in 1959 as a competitor that more closely corresponded to material learned in school. The pandemic dealt a blow to test scores for both, with the Class of 2022’s average ACT composite score hovering at 19.8—a 30-year low. Higher scores have long correlated with wealthier school districts and access to tutors, leading to accusations of inequality and calls for change.

FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, claims that the SAT and ACT exams leave women, low-income students, and underrepresented communities at a disadvantage. A 2020 Brookings Institution investigation of SAT math scores by race argued that the test reinforces race gaps in college admissions instead of increasing racial diversity.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, fewer students have taken the tests and more schools have made them optional or dropped them altogether. The total now, according to FairTest, is more than 1,700 schools for which the tests are optional and 80 that are test-free.

Read more, or scroll to the bottom of this story to try answering sample questions and see if you could ace the ACT.