Taking the SAT or ACT is a rite of passage for high school students who are preparing for college. Students may take one or the other—or both, depending on their college prospects. But what are the major differences between the SAT and the ACT? What are the advantages to taking one over another? And which test might be a better fit for you?
Staying on subject
“Well-rounded” is one of those terms that gets tossed around in admissions brochures and by college recruiters; it essentially means that they’re looking for students with broad interests and strengths in more than one subject. But for students who’ve already chosen a major, a test that showcases their talent in a particular subject might be best. The SAT has three major sections: math, critical reasoning, and writing. The ACT, on the other hand, has five sections: math, English, reading, science and writing. Because the ACT includes science and English sections, future science and liberal arts students might want to take the ACT, although the SAT’s math and critical reasoning sections can serve the same purpose.
Beating the clock
It seems a little unfair that the SAT has three sections and a three-hour, forty-five minute time limit, while the ACT gives you just under three hours to complete five sections. But the devil is in the details: guessing is discouraged for SAT takers, with a penalty of a quarter-point for wrong answers. There is no penalty, however, for wrong answers on the ACT. And while both tests have an essay section, it’s optional—which means students can save time by simply skipping the essay section. Finally, the math section—feared by future English majors everywhere—generally has easier problems on the SAT, but there are fewer, more difficult problems on the ACT.
So, which test should you take, and how do you get your best score? First, find out which tests are preferred by the colleges and universities to which you are applying. Some students take both tests more than once because they hope to improve their chances for a higher score.
No matter which test you decide to take, using study guides, trying new ways to study, and using a vocabulary list can help you with both tests. Both the ACT and the SAT are just exams to demonstrate your readiness for college subjects; doing your best can improve your chances of getting into your dream school.
Written on behalf of American InterContinental University.