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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Mythbusters - Clearinghouse Edition

Another installment about the Clearinghouse by my better half as I let my ummmm, "analysis" (rant) of the situation in Santa Fe age a bit...

Marc and I eagerly anticipate new installments of the Discovery Channel’s series Mythbusters. In the spirit of Adam and Jamie and as the third installment of my NCAA Clearinghouse/recruitment series, I would like to focus on an issue near and dear to my heart – college entrance examinations. Unlike my opinionated husband, I will not (hopefully) go off on an extended explanation of my likes and dislikes regarding the college entrance examinations… the SAT (www.collegeboard.com) and the ACT (www.act.org). Instead, I hope to offer information that both students and parents will find helpful.

First of all, let me debunk a few of the myths surrounding the SAT and the ACT.

1) The ACT is easier than the SAT (or vice versa). Neither test is more difficult or easier than the other. With the changes implemented in the last year, both tests incorporate reading – vocabulary and comprehension, writing - grammar as well as composition, mathematics – ACT tests arithmetic through trigonometry and the SAT tests arithmetic through geometry, and data interpretation – science reasoning on the ACT and tables and graphs questions on the SAT. Although the test formats have become much more similar, the ACT is known for testing higher math skills and the SAT is known for testing higher vocabulary skills.

2) It is to my advantage to guess blindly on the test when I don’t know the answer. Yes and no, it really depends upon which test a student is taking. The true difference in the two tests is the scoring format, which either encourages or discourages guessing. The SAT gives one full point for each question that is correct and penalizes students ¼ point for each question that is answered incorrectly. The only section that has “free guessing points” is the grid-ins section (also known as the “student generated responses”) section of the SAT. Incorrect questions are treated the same as any question left blank – there is NO point deduction for incorrect grid-ins or blank questions. The ACT encourages guessing because it does not deduct points for incorrect responses. On the ACT, an examinee only earns points for questions answered correctly so blind guessing can’t hurt his score.

3) Athletes should take the ACT because it’s easier. I’ve already explained that the material tested and the scoring format. Although many athletes prefer the ACT because of its scoring format (no guessing penalties) I encourage any student-athlete to seriously evaluate his or her own personal strengths before determining which test to use. Take both exams. Although schools indicate a preference, colleges and universities will accept either entrance examination.

4) A student-athlete can only use one test date in order to get a score to pass the Clearinghouse process. Here’s where the rubber hits the road in regard to the NCAA Clearinghouse. Unlike colleges and universities, which may not take a “mixed” composite of a student-athlete’s scores, the NCAA Clearinghouse will draw from the HIGHEST scores in each sub-area in order to compile a composite score for that student-athlete. Let’s consider a hypothetical: Student-athlete (SA) takes the ACT and scores the following on his initial test: 20 Reading Comprehension, 20 English, 22 Math, and 18 Science Reasoning (Writing segments are NOT included by the NCAA Clearinghouse when determining eligibility.) That would give the student a composite of 80. With SA’s 2.0 Clearinghouse GPA, SA is short six points to clear the Clearinghouse. So SA gets tutored or studies and takes the ACT a second time and scores the following: 22 Reading Comprehension, 22 English, 21 Math, 20 Science Reasoning. The Clearinghouse will use the FIRST Math score (22) and the SECOND Reading Comprehension, English, and Science Reasoning scores (22, 22, 20) in order to compile the requisite 86 in order for SA to pass the Clearinghouse process.

5) A college or university will make a new composite score based on all entrance exams (of one type: ACT or SAT) for admissions purposes. It really depends upon the school, the admissions person or committee, the standards for admissions, and the desire of the coach to have a student-athlete play for him. Different rules apply depending upon the “blue-chip” status for student-athletes. Yes, coaches will work with admissions committees/personnel to have a student-athlete admitted. Yes, colleges and universities will apply for NCAA waivers for student-athletes who are not passing through the Clearinghouse on their own two feet. HOWEVER, there are a limited number of exceptions and I always advise the student-athletes with whom I work that it is infinitely to their advantage to walk through the door that their talent opened with their own two feet. Relying upon promises and if-wishes-were-horses-beggars-would-ride philosophy is a poor way to begin one’s collegiate experience IMHO.

As always, please feel free to ask questions, make comments, share experiences, or develop arguments.

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