ACT vs. SAT
When approaching the time to apply for colleges the issue of whether to take the American College Testing (ACT) or Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is an important consideration. While most colleges accept either test, there are some who will only accept one format so it’s important to research the institutions you’re targeting. Both tests are ultimately used as gauges by schools to assess applying students in terms of specific skill sets. How they do it, however, varies and it is not uncommon for students to get significantly different results on one test compared to the other. This article will provide some insight into the differences between the tests to better prepare you for making the decision on the ACT vs. SAT question. Directness of Questions The SAT formats questions in a manner that can often result in writers having to re-read questions extensively in order to be 100% sure what they’re being asked. This can be time consuming for some, which isn’t a good thing considering the SAT is timed. ACT questions tend to be far more direct and after a first read students can quickly move on to answering. Timing & Nature of Questions One direct difference between the two test formats is that the ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes in its base format, with the SAT lasting 3 hours and 45 minutes. There is an optional 30 minute writing test that can be added on to the ACT, and while it’s optional many institutions do require this writing section. Aside from the optional writing test the ACT is also completely multiple choice, whereas the SAT incorporates far more written components. Structure of Content The ACT breaks its four main content areas (English, Math, Reading and Science) up and you address all of the questions related to one area together. The SAT, on the other hand, is broken up into 10 sections that cover the main content areas (Critical Reading, Math, Writing) and the sections are intermixed. So an SAT taker may find themselves doing math, writing, math, critical reading, math, etc. and jumping around a fair bit. For students that struggle when moving back and forth between the main concepts may prefer to take the ACT.Topic Differences The ACT includes a science section (which the SAT does not) and also tests subjects in the math section that are not covered in the SAT. The SAT, alternatively, has a far more extensive focus on vocabulary, though this is offset by the ACT including grammar. This may sound like the ACT is harder, but many disagree as the straight-forward nature of the questions make addressing the additional content far easier. Scoring and Evaluation The SAT provides scores for math and verbal each on a scale of 200-800, with the average of all test takers being a score of 500. These two scores and their combined total are what schools will evaluate students on. The ACT provides 12 separate scores, the most important of which is the composite score that rates students on a scale of 1-36 based on their performance, with half of all test takers falling in a range of 17-23. This approach works better for students that greatly excel in some areas but are weaker in others, as they can still achieve a high composite score and that is what schools focus on. So What Test Should I Take? First and foremost it’s important to make sure that you have a choice as not all schools will accept either test and you may not have a choice. If you do have a choice you need to consider what type of test taker you are. Do you prefer multiple choice (ACT) or more written content (SAT)? Do you have a stronger math and science skill set (ACT) or better verbal and written skills (SAT)? Do you struggle with indirect questions (ACT) or do you excel at them (SAT)? Answering these questions will help you choose what test you should be taking when it comes to ACT vs. SAT.