SAT or ACT: Which Test Should I Take?

It’s that time of the year. Fall has finally come. School is in full swing and it’s time to get to work planning your life after graduation. If you’ve decided that going to college after high school is going to be a part of your plan, then you need to consider which college admission exam to take. The two big ones are the SAT and the ACT.

What are the SAT and ACT?

The SAT and ACT are nationally administered standardized tests. These tests are designed to help colleges evaluate potential students. Your scores on these tests are often a prerequisite for college acceptance.

Which test do I need to take?

Most colleges accept either test’s scores but it is always important to check with the colleges you are applying for to make sure of their specific requirements. You can typically find this on their website under admission requirements.

Which should I choose?

If after looking up the requirements of your potential colleges you find that you have the option of taking either exam, then the choice is yours. There are a lot of differences between the two exams and the choice is mostly a matter of preference.  The SAT is more of an aptitude test whereas the ACT is an achievement based test. Here are some specifics about each test to help you make a more informed decision.


The SAT

As I mentioned above, the SAT is an aptitude test. It measures reasoning and vocabulary much more heavily than the ACT.

The Content:

The SAT has three major components which include: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and Writing.  It is then broken down into 10 smaller sections which require you to rotate back and forth between math, writing, and reading. If you choose to take this exam you have to be comfortable with switching between content a lot. This exam also has a lot of reading comprehension and sentence completion, so if you enjoy vocabulary and language is your thing then this test might be your first choice.

Scoring:

The SAT also scores differently than the ACT.  The SAT has no room for luck. That’s right, no guessing; ¼ of a point is subtracted from your raw score for each wrong answer. Colleges will look at the results from each individual section with the SAT.

Time:

The SAT takes 3 hours and 45 minutes.

 


The ACT

The ACT measures what you have learned in school. It focuses more on content and what you know in specific subjects.

The Content:

The ACT has five sections: English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing. The writing section of this test is optional but may be required by the colleges you are applying to, so make sure you find out before skipping it! This exam moves through the five sections without jumping around. It also focuses on more advanced mathematical concepts than the SAT (think basic trigonometry). The ACT is unique in that has a science section which requires reasoning skills and the ability to interpret data.

Scoring:

The ACT has no penalty for guessing and only scores the questions you answer correctly. It also has a composite score which shows potential colleges how your combined scores measured up against others. With ACT tests, colleges are more concerned with your overall score and less with how you did in a specific section.

Time:

The ACT takes 3 hours and 25 minutes.


Remember:  

Don’t put off taking your test. Sometimes life happens and you get sick, nervous, or have family issues and you tank your test. You need to leave yourself enough time to get the scores back look at them and decide if you need to take the test again. Charles Baudelaire says it best “In putting off what one has to do, one runs the risk of never being able to do it.”  Don’t procrastinate.

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments about the SAT or ACT I’d love to hear from you.

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