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Paly should administer ACT practice exams for students

Two acronyms feared by juniors nationwide, the SAT and ACT, are standardized tests required by many colleges in their admissions processes.

While generally similar in nature, they have subtle differences that often make one preferable to the other depending on the student. In addition to the standard English and math sections, the ACT also has a science section, which tests critical thinking instead of scientific knowledge, and has more questions in a shorter amount of time per section.

As the first-established standardized test, the SAT was once the more popular of the two.

However, over the years, the ACT has overtaken the SAT in popularity.

Since 2012, it has been the preferred standardized test among students, with 2.09 million students taking it among 2016 high school graduates compared to the SAT’s 1.64 million, according to an article published in Education Week — and the number is still rising.

Like most other schools, Palo Alto High School offers the PSAT, an official College Board-created exam that students take in October of their junior year.

While the score does not get sent to colleges, it gives students the opportunity to experience a standard standardized testing environment, and gives them an estimate of the score they would get on the actual SAT exam.

In addition to this practice exam, teacher advisers also give each student a packet of SAT test-taking tips, sample questions and practice exams. Thus, every junior receives an adequate amount of materials to prepare for the SAT — but for those who prefer the style of ACT, or may not know which test suits them best, they are stuck searching for ACT materials on their own.

The Campanile thinks Palo Alto High School should offer practice exams and material for the ACT in addition to the SAT preparation materials.

For a test taken by the majority of seniors nationwide, according to data provided by the ACT, this would benefit a large number of students at Paly.

Administering the test would admittedly take multiple hours,  but this exam could be taken during an already-scheduled staff professional development day or Flex day for students so it would not take away from instructional minutes.

Although practice exams are available online, stimulating the test-taking environment is a valuable experience, especially considering completing each section within the allotted time adds to the challenge of these tests.

Thus, taking the practice exam at school with teacher proctors would be a far more accurate simulation of the test-taking experience than taking it alone at home.

Standardized testing is already a stressful experience — let’s give our juniors the opportunity to find out which standardized test allows them to best succeed.

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