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SAT vs. ACT?

Learn which exam is right for you!

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Which test should I take?

Today, students are free to choose either the SAT or ACT for consideration at any 4-year college in America.  That being said, there are some key differences which might make one test preferable to the other for some students.  In particular, the SAT is largely seen as a more “coachable” exam and students tend to see larger, more meaningful increases after rigorous preparation.  On the other hand, the ACT does not have a scoring penalty, so some students will be better served by the opportunity to guess on difficult questions without negatively affecting their overall score.  Below is a quick, side-by-side comparison of both tests.

SAT vs. ACT

 

SAT

vs.

ACT

Reasoning Test

Type of Test

Content-Based Test

Critical Reading:

two, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section;

 

Math:

two, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section;

 

Writing:

two, 25-min essay, 1, 25-min section,
and 1, 10-min section

Test Format

  • English:
    1, 45-min section;
  • Math:
    1, 60-min section;
  • Reading:
    1, 35-min section;
  • Science:
    1, 35-min section;
  • Writing:
    1, 30-min essay (optional)

Math (through Alg II and Geometry)

Grammar & Usage, 

Critical Reading

Vocabulary

Writing

Content Covered

Math (through Alg II, Geometry and Trig)

Grammar & Usage, 

Reading

Science Reasoning

Vocabulary

Writing (optional)

More a test of how well a student understands concepts and ideas

Test Style

More a test of how much “stuff” a student knows

Math, Critical Reading, and Writing scores will each range between a 200-800; total SAT score ranges from 600-2400

Scoring

English, Math, Reading, and Science scores will each range from 1-36.  Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges between 1-36

Yes – you lose ¼ of a point for incorrect answers (except on the grid-in math questions)

Penalty for Wrong Answers?

No – you do not lose points for incorrect answers

Yes – you can choose which test date of SAT scores to submit to colleges (if the particular college allows this option)

Score Choice?

Yes – you can choose which test date of ACT scores to submit to colleges (if the particular college allows this option)

Math and Sentence Completion questions get more difficult as students move through a section

Difficulty Levels

The order of difficulty of the questions is random

arithmetic, data analysis, algebra I and II, functions, geometry; some formulas are provided in the test booklet

Math Levels

arithmetic, algebra I and II, functions, geometry, trigonometry; no formulas are provided

with private schools and schools on the east and west coasts; however, every four-year college in the US accepts SAT scores

Tends to be more popular?

with public schools and schools in the Midwest and south; however, every four-year college in the US accepts ACT scores

Seven times per year: January or February, March, May, June, October, November, December

Offered when?

Six times per year: February, April, June, September, October, December (note that Oregon and some other states offer the ACT as part of their state testing requirements; these tests are not administered on the national test dates)

Typically about four weeks before the test date

Registration deadline?

Typically about five to six weeks before the test date

www.collegeboard.com

More Information

www.act.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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