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ACT Vs. SAT Vs. PSAT

There is an extremely large number of standardized tests administered in this country. Most of them will fall into one of three categories: Achievement tests, Scholastic Aptitude tests, and Specific Aptitude tests. These three categories are summarized in the following table.

The Three Basic Kinds of Standardized Tests

Kind of Test

Purpose

Reliability

Special Considerations

Achievement Tests

(ACT)

To assess how much students have learned from what they have specifically been taught.
  • Reliability coefficients are often .90 or higher; they are typically higher for secondary students than for elementary students.  Coefficients may be somewhat lower for subtest scores.
  • Content validity must be determined for each situation.
  • These tests are usually more appropriate for measuring broad areas of achievement than specific knowledge or skills.
  • Useful when comparing the performance of two groups of students.
  • Allows us to follow a student's progress over time and can alert us to "potential trouble spots".

Scholastic Aptitude Tests

(SAT)

To assess students’ general capability to learn; to predict their general academic success over the short run  Often called intelligence tests.
  • Reliability coefficients are often .90 or higher; they are typically higher for secondary students than for elementary students.
  • Predictive validity for academic success ranges from .40 to .70, depending on the situation and student population.


  • Test scores should not be construed as an indication of learning potential over the long run.
  • Individually administered tests (in which the tester works one-on-one with a particular student) are preferable when students’ verbal skills are limited or when significant exceptionality is suspected.
  • Typically assess how much a student has learned from their everyday lives and experiences.

Specific Aptitude Tests

(PSAT)

To predict how well students are likely to perform in a specific content domain.
  • Reliability coefficients are often .90 or higher.
  • Predictive validity for academic success often falls below .50.
  • Test scores should not be construed as an indication of learning potential over the long run.

Table taken from Ormrod, page 527

 


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