SAT/ACT

Although many colleges require students to take either the SAT or ACT, PLEASE NOTE that there are OVER 800 colleges in the United States that are “TEST OPTIONAL”, which means that they do not require a student to submit standardized test scores. Please visit FAIRTEST at www.fairtest.org to view the complete list of colleges in the U.S. A. that do NOT require standardized tests.

Although there is no science that proves that the ACT or SAT is easier, you probably want to determine which test format is better suited to your strengths. Each test has different emphases and familiarity with their individual structures may help you sort out which is better suited to you.

Take a look at the following comparison of the ACT and SAT to help you decide. The current SAT format is still in effect for the upcoming 2014-15 academic year so use the information below as a guide.

Test Preparation for the ACT

The ACT has four multiple-choice subject tests covering English, Math, Reading, and Science. These are designed to evaluate your overall educational development and your ability to complete college-level work. You’ll have 2 hours and 55 minutes of dedicated test time to complete the subject tests, not including breaks. As far as scoring goes, your subject test scores (ranging from 1 to 36) are determined after throwing out any incorrect answers — only correct responses count! The four areas are then averaged together to come up with your overall, or composite, score. The ACT also includes an optional 30-minute writing test designed to measure your skill in planning and writing a short essay. This segment is your chance to highlight your writing skills! If you opt to take it, the additional scores will be reported, along with comments about your essay. These scores are reported separately. So, if writing is a weak area, you might want to take the ACT and skip the writing section, since it’s currently optional (although some schools require it).

Test Preparation for the SAT

When looking at the SAT in comparison to the ACT, a clear difference is that the SAT is designed to evaluate your general thinking and problem-solving abilities. It kicks things off with a required 25-minute essay. This is the start to the Writing section, which you’ll complete in addition to the Critical Reading and Math sections. The SAT differs from the ACT in terms of the amount of time you’ll have to complete it (3 hours and 5 minutes) and the format in which you provide your answers. Similar to the ACT, the SAT has multiple-choice areas, but it also has a part in the Math section where you’ll be required produce your answers — no chance of guessing from a set of choices here! And unlike the ACT, the SAT doles out a slight penalty for wrong answers on the multiple choice questions (but not on the student-produced ones). When considering the ACT vs. the SAT, keep in mind that both tests allot ample time for completion, but the SAT has fewer questions — 140 compared to the 215 on the ACT. The SAT also focuses heavily on vocabulary, while the ACT hones in on grammar and punctuation.

ACT or SAT: It all depends on you

When viewing a comparison of the ACT and SAT, the vast majority of students perform comparably on both tests. If the colleges you’re interested in accept scores from either test, you may want to consider taking both admissions tests. Each one tests you in a different way, so you might opt to take both to see which one you perform better on. However, if you’re short on time and money and want to put your efforts towards test prep for only one of the tests, your best bet is to take a few practice exams. There are free and low-cost practice exams available electronically and in-print. The College Board at www.collegeboard.org has some test prep options on their site, such as the “SAT Question of the Day” option that students can sign up for. In addition, Petersons at www.petersons.com and YourPlanForYourFuture at www.yourplanforyourfuture.org have additional information on preparing for the SAT.

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