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SAT vs. ACT: Which to Take
Which one is right for me?
Am I a pretty good reader? ACT
Do I excel at critical thinking? SAT
Am I good at reading graphs and charts? ACT
Do I like history? SAT
Do I like science? ACT
Do I have strong vocabulary skills? SAT
Is my math level up to geometry and some trig? ACT
Can I handle algebra and data analysis? SAT
Time and Details
Both the SAT and ACT take about the same amount of time. However, with the new optional writing sections, the SAT is about 10 minutes longer. For reading sections, the SAT allows 13 minutes per passage to read and answer questions, while the ACT allows 8 and a half minutes.
Did you know that you can apply for extra time?
If you have a special need or circumstance, you can apply ahead for additional test taking time. Make a request through your school counselor. Documentation of a learning challenge or special circumstance must be submitted for both the ACT and SAT. In speaking to school counselors and school psychologists, extra time is generally more difficult to obtain from ACT than SAT. SAT is more generous in providing extra time to students with learning challenges and special needs.
What are the sections, number of questions, and scoring scales?
Both the SAT and ACT cover English, math, and have an optional essay. The SAT covers reading with science included in some of these readings, while the ACT covers reading and science separately. The ACT has more questions than the SAT, and scores from 1-36 while the SAT scores 400-1600.
What do they test?
The SAT overall has more challenging language, requires strong skills in evidence support, reasoning skills and analyzing specific details. It does include graphs and charts. The SAT tests more complex vocabulary and requires the student to use contextual skills to obtain meanings of words.
The ACT tests overall reading comprehension and focuses more on the main ideas of passages, with some inferencing skills required. It tests verbal nuances, as they are used in a sentence.
The SAT requires some analysis but covers the same material as the ACT.
The ACT focuses on verbal usage, grammar skills, and specific mechanics such as punctuation.
The ACT has a dedicated science section. You don’t necessarily have to be an expert in science, but it does require good reading comprehension skills and skill in reading charts and graphs.
The SAT has become more straight forward like the ACT. It has a section that allows you to use a calculator and one that does not. The SAT focuses heavily on algebra, data analysis and contains very little geometry.
The ACT focuses more on geometry and trig. The ACT allows you to use a calculator, but it is not required nor necessary.
The SAT requires the student to read, analyze and write without stating their opinion.
The ACT wants the student to analyze, provide their own creative examples, and offer their opinion.
Are tests optional? What is your recommendation?
More and more colleges are choosing to go test optional! Since some research points to test scores as not a real indicator of college readiness, some colleges have made the decision to do away SAT and ACT scores as part of their application process. Take a look at the list of schools that are test optional!
I always recommend that students take a free practice test in both the ACT and SAT at your local prep center and decide which is the best fit given your learning style. With that said, these tests are important. Take the test that you score higher on and the test that you are comfortable sitting for!
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