Beyond College Admissions: Why the SAT and ACT are Awesome!

Last updated May 7, 2021 

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Few students or parents will extol the virtues of the SAT and ACT. These college admissions test sare just another requirement students have to meet in order to get into their preferred schools. Recently, however, Tests and the Rest, a college admissions podcast, interviewed David Blobaum, a consultant to schools on SAT/ACT best practices and co-founder of Summit Prep, to explain why the SAT and ACT are, in his words, “awesome.”

The Benefits of SAT/ACT Math and ACT Science

For some students, it may seem like the only reason to learn math is to do well on tests, including the SAT and ACT. Blobaum suggests that even though some will not need to use math topics in their everyday lives, there is an advantage to increasing one’s “mathematical ability and mathematical reasoning ability.” For example, as students prepare for the math sections of either the SAT or ACT, they will encounter topics, such as averages and percentages, they will need to use for the rest of their lives. Blobaum is particularly impressed with how the SAT and ACT arm students with skills that will help them navigate their personal finances, including understanding credit scores, interest rates, and retirement.

Data interpretation is another vital skill tested on both the SAT and ACT. On the SAT, students will encounter data interpretation questions on the Reading and Writing sections. The ACT, on the other hand, tests a student’s ability to analyze and interpret data via its separate Science section. According to Blobaum, “We’re moving into an era of having massive amounts of information, and we have to understand that information.” By learning how to draw logical conclusions from the data presented on charts, graphs, and tables, students are preparing themselves for success in today’s data-driven world.

The Benefits of SAT Writing and ACT English

Blobaum argues the most important subject in school is language: “Language is the foundation of our civilization. We couldn’t have an organized, functioning society if we couldn’t communicate.” Language skills, including those tested on the SAT and ACT, enable students to decipher word problems in math, interpret historical texts, and explore the sciences.

Blobaum believes “grammar is the key that unlocks language. Without knowing grammar, you can’t say what you want to say in the way that you want to say it.” Likewise, those questions about word choice and organization on the SAT and ACT, known as “expression of ideas” and “rhetorical skills” questions respectively, assess skills that “students are going to need for the rest of their lives.” From writing an email to a business client or a personal friend, to writing a report for colleagues, communicating effectively is how individuals share ideas and build relationships. Therefore, the grammar skills tested on the SAT and ACT transcend any particular grade or exam.

The Benefits of SAT/ACT Reading

The reading comprehension sections of the SAT and ACT are equally essential. To be a well-informed and responsible citizen, one should be able to read the news and evaluate it critically. To stay up-to-date in one’s profession, one should be able to read and understand scholarly articles. “We need to test proficiency in reading,” says Blobaum, because “the better someone gets […] the better able they are to be able to learn.” Since reading is such a “valuable skill Blobaum hopes that even if colleges decided not to consider test scores, “all students would still take” the SAT/ACT just to make sure they are prepared.

SAT/ACT versus Grades

Why do we need the SAT and ACT to assess whether students have mastered the fundamentals when we have grades? Context. Grades vary depending on a myriad of factors, including a student’s state, school district, and even his or her teacher. The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that compare students to their peers both nationally and internationally, so they provide students an accurate indication of how they measure up.” Students need this kind of objective feedback to not only predict their college success, but also to identify their areas of weakness. A low score in Reading, for example, can be “a really good wake-up call that I need to read more, and I need to work more,” says Blobaum. Working on these areas of weakness will better prepare students for “college and for the rest of their lives.”

Beyond College Admissions

The SAT and ACT already play an important role in college admissions by predicting success better than even high school grades, but that is not the only reason these tests are awesome. Blobaum concludes, “Knowledge that’s important for life—for us to be successful, for us to be healthy, for us to be happy—is on the SAT and ACT. They are founded on the same content, principles, and skills.”

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