College Board & ACT Release Official Concordance Tables
If you’re planning to apply to most colleges in the United States, you’ll need to take at least one of the two major standardized tests of college readiness: the ACT and the SAT. Since most colleges accept both tests and treat them equally, a typical applicant pool will consist of students who took either test, or even both.
These variations in testing present a problem for colleges evaluating applicants, especially since the two tests have completely different scoring systems. If one student takes only the SAT and receives a score of 1400, for example, and another student takes only the ACT and receives a score of 32, how is a college to decide which student had the stronger test performance?
That’s where concordance tables become important. The overarching ACT organization and the College Board (which administers the SAT) come together regularly to create these tables, which offer an official basis for comparison between SAT and ACT scores. As of June 14, 2018, this newest edition of the ACT/SAT concordance tables has been released to the public, and you can view the report online here.
In this post, we’ll cover the differences between the SAT and the ACT, how to read the official concordance tables, and what you need to know about how this report might affect your college admissions process.
The ACT vs. the SAT: A Brief Review
As you probably know, the ACT and the SAT are both standardized tests that are intended to measure your readiness for college on a scale that allows for comparisons with high school students throughout the United States. While the two tests have the same basic purpose, they go about it in slightly different ways. We’ve covered this before in our post SAT vs ACT: Everything You Need to Know, but we’ll go over a few of the most notable differences here.
One visible difference between these standardized tests is that the ACT has a science section, while the SAT does not. Another is that your answers on the ACT are translated into a scoring scale that goes up to 36, while the SAT’s scoring system goes up to 1600.
You may have heard that the SAT’s approach to testing is more about logic and problem-solving, while the ACT is more focused on learning specific content. In the past, this has been true, but after many years of changes, the current versions of the two tests don’t show much of a difference in this area.
Historically, the ACT has been more popular in the Midwest and Southern regions of the U.S., while the SAT was more often preferred by students and colleges on the East and West Coasts. Nowadays, however, colleges in the U.S. will generally accept either test to meet application requirements, and many students choose to take both.
Since colleges consider the SAT and the ACT equally, your choice of which test to take won’t in itself give you an advantage in the admissions process. However, you may find that you’re better suited to one test’s approach than to the other’s, and can achieve a comparatively higher score. The ACT/SAT concordance tables can help you make this comparison, or simply estimate how well you’re likely to do on the other test.
Understanding the ACT/SAT Concordance Tables
Concordance tables are exactly what they sound like: tables where you can look up your score on either the SAT or the ACT and find out what score would be roughly equivalent on the other test. This is an estimate, based on the average performance of a large number of past test-takers, but it can provide you with some useful information about your test performance.
The ACT/SAT concordance tables are updated every time changes are made to one of the tests involved. This 2018 report was triggered by changes made to the SAT in 2016. In the past two years, the College Board and the ACT have gathered and analyzed data from real test-takers and come to an updated set of conclusions about how, on average, the two tests compare.
All colleges have access to these concordance tables and are encouraged to use them in the admissions process. Colleges can use concordance tables to compare students who only took the SAT to students who only took the ACT as one of many factors in making admissions decisions. The tables are officially sanctioned by both testing organizations, which also helps to ensure consistency in how different colleges across the U.S. evaluate your scores.
Official concordance tables are available broken down by test section, but most students will primarily be interested in the table that compares overall ACT composite scores (out of 36) to total SAT scores (out of 1600). Since the scales are so different, a range of corresponding SAT scores is given for each ACT composite score. We’ve reproduced part of that concordance table below for your convenience.
|SAT Total Score Range
|ACT Composite Score
As you can see, in most cases, an increase of one point on the ACT scoring scale typically corresponds to an increase of about 30 points on the SAT scoring scale. However, the concordance table shows that this isn’t consistent across the entire score range, so it’s important to refer back to the chart for the most accurate comparison.
The Guide to the 2018 ACT/SAT Concordance from the College Board and the ACT also includes more detailed concordance tables for specific ACT and SAT test sections as well as information and instructions for interpreting and using these results. For the full report as posted on the College Board’s website, click here.
What Do Concordance Tables Mean for Me?
There are a few different ways that you as a student can use concordance tables during the college admissions process. Concordance tables can be helpful as a predictive tool; if you know your score for one test, the table can show you roughly what to expect for the other test. Finding the score that corresponds to what you’ve already received on one test can also help you set score goals for an upcoming testing session.
When you’re researching colleges, concordance tables can help you understand how you compare to the average applicant. If, for example, you can only find information on the average SAT score of successful applicants to a particular school, but you took the ACT, you can easily convert your score to roughly determine where you stand.
You can also use concordance tables to recognize if you perform markedly better on one test over the other after taking both. Since the vast majority of colleges accept either or both, this can help you decide which test scores to submit to colleges. (Remember, certain scholarship and recognition programs are still tied to specific tests, so always do your research in advance to figure out what tests you’ll need to take.)
While concordance tables can be helpful, it’s also important that you recognize their limitations. They are only estimates based upon the average test performance of students across the U.S., and if you actually sit down and take both tests, you may very well find that your own results don’t match up exactly to the official table.
It’s very difficult to make exact comparisons between two entirely different tests developed by entirely different organization. In addition to the structural differences, your individual testing experiences will vary in ways that may affect your performance. How you feel the day of the test and what exact questions you happen to receive may sway your score in either direction.
Finally, you should keep in mind that standardized test scores are only one of many different factors that colleges use to make their admissions decisions. Scoring well on these tests is a necessity for admission to many top schools, but it won’t get you in on its own; your scores must be part of a competitive and cohesive overall application that showcases all your best qualities and engages admissions officers.
Preparing and studying for standardized tests is a must, and it’s well-established that doing so raises scores. However, your attention shouldn’t be focused solely on your test scores. If you balance your test prep with work on other areas of your applicant profile and application form, you’re much more likely to catch a college’s eye—and to find a college that’s truly a good fit for you.
For more guidance about understanding your SAT and ACT scores and deciding which test(s) to take, check out these posts from the CollegeVine blog.
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