- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

NORFOLK (AP) — The ACT Assessment, once considered a college-entry exam primarily for students in the Midwest, is becoming more popular in Virginia.

The number of Virginians taking the ACT nearly tripled in the past decade, from 3,600 in 1995 to 10,172 last year, the Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported this week. The ACT was formerly known as the American College Testing Program.

That’s still much fewer than the 53,726 taking the SAT, or Scholastic Assessment Test, last year.

But colleges are feeling the ACT trend.

Old Dominion University, for example, has seen an 11 percent rise in the past three years in the number of ACT scores submitted, said Alice R. McAdory, executive director of admissions.

At Virginia Wesleyan College, the percentage of applicants reporting ACT scores increased from 19 percent in 2002 to 26 percent this year, said Rick Hinshaw, dean of admissions.

The jump is fueled by growing competitiveness to get into college and schools’ growing willingness to look at ACT scores, said Jeff Rubenstein, a vice president for the Princeton Review in New York, a national test-preparation company.

Colleges across Virginia say they accept scores from both tests and generally look at the best one.

The University of Virginia considers both exams. But “we prefer the SAT because we have had decades of experience with it and we have a pretty good sense of what it predicts,” said admissions dean John A. Blackburn.

The ACT more closely hews to the curriculum, while the SAT tests “critical thinking.”

Jamelle Bouie, a prospective ACT-taker and senior at Kellam High School in Virginia Beach, put it this way: “The ACT tests stuff you should have learned in high school rather than reasoning.”

Many private schools encourage college applicants to take both tests.

“I’ve always advised the students, especially those who have been worried about the SAT, to view taking the ACT as an additional opportunity to perhaps enhance their scores,” said Arlene Ingram, director of college counseling at Cape Henry Collegiate in Virginia Beach.

The advice from colleges is mixed, with many admissions deans saying: Try both.

“I’ve always said to take one test at least twice and if you find that your test scores are not where you want them to be, then take the other test,” said Angela Nixon Boyd, admissions director at Hampton University.

Bradford Bucknum, a senior at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, took the SAT twice and wasn’t happy with the results either time.

“I didn’t feel that my score, which is 1200, reflects my level of intelligence,” Bradford said. So last Saturday, he tried the ACT.

“It was definitely nicer than the SAT,” he said. “It wasn’t that it was easier; it was friendlier. It judged what you knew. The SATs tried to attack you.”

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