Once upon a time, where you lived largely determined which college admissions exam you took.   If you lived in the northeast or on the west coast, chances are you took the SAT.  Students in the south and center of the country took the ACT. Many students and parents erroneously believed there was a strong preference for the SAT at the most prestigious schools. Times have changed.

Today every college and university in the nation that accepts a standardized test accepts the SAT and ACT, equally. The ACT surpassed the SAT in number of test takers in 2012, and the geographical preferences have become weaker.  When the SAT changed last year, many traditional SAT areas saw a rise in ACT takers.  Longtime strongholds of the ACT, like Illinois and Michigan, now pay for juniors to take the SAT for free in school every spring

The redesign of the SAT in 2016 made the test very similar to the ACT in many respects.  This was no accident.  The former head of test design at ACT is now in charge of SAT design at the College Board. As a result, many students, especially those applying to highly selective schools, are opting to take both the SAT and ACT as a way to maximize their scores.

How common is it to take both?  That is not an easy question to answer.  No one collects that data.  We know that about 1.8 million people in the Class of 2017 took the SAT and about 2 million took the ACT.  We also know that even in SAT school day states, where almost 100% of students took the SAT, that students also take the ACT.  In Michigan, for instance, 29% of the Class of 2017 took the ACT and in Connecticut 31% did.  Almost certainly, many students who take both only send the stronger score to a school, which makes it harder yet to track double testing.

What we can look at is the number students who enrolled in selective colleges and submitted both exams. Every year, colleges report a wide range of data about accepted students to the Common Data Set (CDS).  The Common Data Set numbers are released each spring and reflect the freshman class that entered the previous fall.  The most recent data released by the CDS, for the class that started in 2016, is for a cohort of students who applied in 2015, before the SAT changed.  It is important to keep this lag-time in mind, particularly because the revisions to the SAT are likely to have encouraged more students to take both exams.

Using the CDS, we built the list below of schools where the sum of the percentage of students who submitted an SAT and of those who submitted an ACT was greater than 100%.  When the sum of the percentages is greater than 100%, the only logical explanation is that the surplus represents students who submitted scores from both exams.

Before we examine the results, it should be noted that the information in the Common Data Set does not tell the whole story on how many students take both exams.  First, there are the students who take both but only send in scores from one test.  As noted, they cannot be tracked.  Second, some (mostly test-optional) schools report fewer than 100% of students sending in scores, so there is no way to identify an overlap among those that did submit scores. Third, the delay in CDS reporting means that we do not know how the changes to the SAT affected test-submission patterns in the past two years. Fourth, there are a few inconsistencies between CDS data and the other commonly used collection of aggregate data on college admissions, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).  For the sake of transparency, we report both the CDS and IPEDS percentages in the table below. Finally, some schools are almost certainly not reporting all the scores they have received. The most obvious offenders are those reporting ACT and SAT percentages that add up exactly to 100%.  It is hard to believe that the number of students who sent in scores from both tests was too small to be counted.

Perhaps the best benchmark for gauging the frequency of dual submission is the University of California system.  The UC schools require students to submit scores for all the entrance exams they have taken.  As a result, they may provide a more reliable number there than at institutions where students might be holding scores back or where the institution is holding them back. What we see at the three most popular UCs—Los Angeles, Berkeley, San Diego—is between 30% and 40% of students submitting both an SAT and an ACT. That is surprising.  It was the UC system, after all, who made the SAT both a national test and a part of the fabric of American life when it adopted the exam for admissions in 1968. Even though UC schools draw students from across the nation, more than three-fourths of UC students are California residents, so the inflation of ACT takers by non-residents is limited.  It appears that many California students have embraced the ACT.

The number of students submitting both scores has been fairly stable over the past five years, but we strongly suspect that when the CDS releases the numbers next spring for the high school class of 2017, the trend will swing in the other direction.  With the release of the new SAT and several large states switching over from providing free, school-day ACTs to free, school-day SATs, it is likely that taking and submitting both exams will grow more popular.  Now that the SAT resembles the ACT so closely, students are better situated than ever to take both.

What is clear is that at a significant number of schools, students are taking and submitting both the SAT and the ACT.  The average among schools on this list is about a fifth of the class.  While it remains important for students to determine whether one test is a better match for their abilities, it is also clear that taking both tests is a viable strategy worth considering, if only because so many applicants to selective schools are already doing so.

SCHOOL BOTH SAT and ACT (CDS) BOTH SAT AND ACT (IPEDS) ADMIT RATE
Alfred University 21% 24% 70%
Amherst College 3% 3% 14%
Angelo State University 25% 15% 77%
Arizona State University 14% 14% 83%
Austin College 8% 6% 54%
Babson College 11% 11% 25%
Barnard College 14% 15% 20%
Becker College 6% 6% 65%
Bellarmine University 12% 10% 84%
Bentley University 17% 17% 46%
Boston College 13% 13% 31%
Boston University 14% 14% 29%
Bradley University 4% 4% 70%
Brigham Young University (UT) 21% 21% 51%
Brown University 16% 16% 9%
Bucknell University 12% 12% 30%
California Institute of Technology 28% 28% 8%
Calvin College 10% 8% 75%
Carleton College 13% 13% 23%
Carnegie Mellon University 19% 19% 22%
Case Western Reserve University 16% 16% 35%
Catawba College 27% 27% 47%
Centenary College of Louisiana 19% 15% 67%
Centre College 4% 4% 74%
Champlain College 15% 13% 66%
Chapman University 20% 20% 54%
Christopher Newport University 7% 7% 62%
Claremont McKenna College 10% 10% 9%
Clarkson University 30% 30% 68%
Coe College 3% 3% 50%
Colby College 12% 8% 23%
College of Charleston 2% 3% 84%
College of the Ozarks 2% 2% 14%
College of William and Mary 21% 21% 37%
College of Wooster 14% 14% 58%
Colorado State University 12% 12% 78%
Columbia University 16% 12% 6%
Cornell University 20% 20% 14%
Creighton University 12% 12% 71%
Davidson College 24% 24% 20%
DePauw University 28% 28% 65%
Duke University 23% 21% 12%
Eckerd College 20% 20% 84%
Emerson College 16% 16% 49%
Emory University 19% 19% 25%
Evergreen State College 4% 4% 97%
Flagler College 7% 7% 55%
Fordham University 15% 15% 45%
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering 25% 19% 11%
George Washington University 14% 46%
Georgetown University 20% 17%
Georgia Institute of Technology 39% 39% 26%
Gonzaga University 26% 26% 67%
Gordon College 5% 5% 92%
Grove City College 29% 82%
Harvard College 16% 16% 5%
Harvey Mudd College 30% 30% 13%
Haverford College 12% 12% 21%
Hillsdale College 10% 45%
Hollins University 22% 22% 60%
Howard University 19% 17% 48%
Illinois Institute of Technology 7% 7% 57%
Indiana University–Bloomington 36% 36% 79%
James Madison University 23% 23% 72%
Kenyon College 14% 11% 29%
Lafayette College 14% 14% 28%
Le Moyne College 2% 2% 65%
Loyola Marymount University 14% 14% 54%
Loyola University New Orleans 12% 12% 68%
Loyola University of Chicago 6% 6% 73%
Lynchburg College 24% 24% 64%
Macalester College 12% 12% 37%
Marquette University 3% 3% 84%
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 26% 26% 8%
McGill University 12% 56%
Miami University 8% 8% 65%
Michigan Technological University 4% 4% 76%
Middlebury College 9% 9% 16%
Millsaps College 10% 8% 57%
Montana Tech of the Univ. of Montana 8% 1% 90%
New College of Florida 43% 43% 61%
New Jersey Institute of Technology 9% 9% 59%
New York University 7% 7% 32%
North Carolina State University 7% 5% 57%
Northwestern University 9% 9% 11%
Oberlin College 7% 7% 28%
Occidental College 13% 13% 46%
Ohio Northern University 12% 11% 69%
Ohio State University–Columbus 19% 16% 49%
Ohio University–Athens 11% 11% 75%
Pepperdine University 17% 17% 37%
Pomona College 25% 18% 12%
Princeton University 18% 18% 7%
Providence College 13% 12% 55%
Purdue University–West Lafayette 30% 25% 56%
Quinnipiac University 15% 15% 76%
Randolph College 11% 11% 84%
Randolph-Macon College 25% 25% 61%
Reed College 16% 16% 31%
Rice University 30% 30% 15%
Rider University 11% 11% 69%
Roanoke College 12% 12% 73%
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 32% 32% 61%
Saint Louis University 4% 4% 65%
Saint Mary’s College (CA) 26% 20% 76%
San Diego State University 35% 35% 35%
Santa Clara University 6% 6% 48%
Scripps College 13% 13% 30%
Seton Hall University 15% 17% 84%
Simmons College 13% 14% 58%
Skidmore College 10% 10% 29%
Sonoma State University 30% 30% 76%
Southern Methodist University 13% 13% 49%
Southwestern University 36% 36% 45%
Spelman College 25% 25% 36%
St. Bonaventure University 30% 31% 66%
St. Mary’s College of Maryland 14% 20% 80%
St. Olaf College 9%  9% 45%
Stanford University 31%  28% 5%
State University of New York – University at Albany 14%  14% 54%
State University of New York at Binghamton 41%  41% 41%
State University of New York at Geneseo 1%  1% 67%
State University of New York–College of Environmental Science and Forestry 24%  24% 54%
State University of New York–Stony Brook University 15%  15% 41%
Stephens College 3%  6% 61%
Swarthmore College 16%  16% 13%
Syracuse University 10%  10% 52%
The College of New Jersey 15%  15% 49%
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art 16%  – 13%
The University of Texas at Dallas 30%  30% 68%
Thomas Aquinas College 13%  13% 75%
Tuskegee University 17%  43% 36%
United States Coast Guard Academy 39% 18%
United States Merchant Marine Academy 30%  30% 22%
United States Military Academy 68%  – 10%
United States Naval Academy 44%  – 8%
University of Arkansas–Fayetteville 18%  18% 63%
University of California–Berkeley 31%  34% 15%
University of California–Los Angeles 39%  39% 18%
University of California–San Diego 31%  6% 34%
University of California–Santa Barbara 36%  36% 36%
University of California–Santa Cruz 30%  33% 58%
University of Chicago 16%  16% 8%
University of Cincinnati 12%  12% 76%
University of Colorado–Boulder 12%  12% 77%
University of Connecticut 19%  17% 53%
University of Dallas 29%  29% 80%
University of Dayton 14%  14% 60%
University of Delaware 34%  – 63%
University of Denver 9%  9% 53%
University of Florida 60%  55% 49%
University of Georgia 46%  46% 54%
University of Hawaii-Manoa 2%  12% 80%
University of Houston 27%  27% 59%
University of Idaho 38%  38% 76%
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 6%  6% 59%
University of Kentucky 9%  9% 91%
University of Maine 9%  9% 90%
University of Maryland, Baltimore County 15%  16% 59%
University of Maryland, College Park 22% 48%
University of Massachusetts-Amherst 12%  12% 60%
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor 10%  11% 29%
University of Minnesota–Twin Cities 4%  4% 45%
University of Mississippi 14%  13% 78%
University of Missouri 3%  2% 78%
University of Montana 14%  14% 91%
University of New England 17%  17% 83%
University of New Hampshire 12%  12% 76%
University of New Haven 22%  22% 81%
University of New Mexico 9%  8% 47%
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 49%  2% 27%
University of North Carolina at Greensboro 18% 9% 74%
University of Oklahoma 17%  17% 71%
University of Oregon 14%  15% 78%
University of Pittsburgh–Pittsburgh Campus 30%  30% 55%
University of Redlands 24%  21% 68%
University of Rhode Island 13%  11% 71%
University of San Diego 17%  17% 51%
University of San Francisco 18%  18% 71%
University of Scranton 6%  6% 74%
University of South Carolina–Columbia 1%  51% 65%
University of Southern California 16%  16% 17%
University of Tampa 20%  20% 48%
University of Tennessee- Knoxville 9%  9% 77%
University of Texas at Austin 40%  40% 40%
University of the Pacific 27%  27% 66%
University of Utah 7%  7% 76%
University of Vermont 17%  18% 71%
University of Virginia 27%  27% 30%
University of Washington 17%  17% 45%
University of Wisconsin-Madison 4%  3% 53%
University of Wyoming 5%  5% 95%
Vanderbilt University 5%  5% 11%
Vassar College 16%  – 26%
Wabash College 43%  41% 61%
Washington State University 7%  7% 72%
Washington University in St. Louis 9% 9% 17%
Webb Institute 10%  10% 29%
Wellesley College 16%  16% 30%
Wheaton College (IL) 18%  18% 79%
Whitman College 19%  19% 51%
Whittier College 18%  18% 63%
Williams College 20%  17% 18%
Worcester Polytechnic Institute 15% 49%
Xavier University (OH) 12%  12% 69%
Yale University 19%  16% 7%

 

 

Leave a Reply