SAT vs ACT: Which one is for me?

 In College Preparation

Test prep season is still underway, and for many high school students applying to college that means the SAT or ACT is also around the bend. While each standardized test demonstrates college readiness, understanding the differences between the two will help you decide which one is right for you. Both exams are accepted by all four-year U.S. colleges, however knowing the school’s admission preference beforehand is key. Still unsure of which test you should take? Here are some factors to consider:

How Long

The ACT takes 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete, or 3 hours and 40 minutes should you choose to do the optional essay, whereas the redesigned SAT takes 3 hours and 50 minutes to complete including the optional essay, which some colleges require.

Under Pressure

There is a total of 154 multiple-choice questions on the SAT and 215 questions on the ACT. You should consider the amount of time you will have to answer each question.

The Score

For the SAT, total scores range from 400-1600; for the ACT, the composite score runs from 1-36.

Now that we got the logistics out the way, let’s get down to business. Although slightly different, both exams cover the same concepts in math, reading, writing and literacy.

  • You may prefer the SAT if you have trouble with reading comprehension. The reading questions on the SAT are typically given with a line number as a reference to locate the answers.
  • However, the evidence questions in the reading section on the SAT asks you to explain how you got your answer. If you struggle with support and reason, then you may want to aim for the ACT.
  • The vocabulary on both the reading and writing sections on the SAT is a lot more complex than the ACT, so if vocabulary is your strength, perhaps the SAT is for you.
  • If you’re a math wiz, consider taking the ACT as there is a lot more geometry covered on this exam than on the SAT. But, keep in mind that you’ll need to memorize formulas as they will not be given to you like on the SAT.
  • When it comes down to science, the ACT questions are based on experimental design while the SAT focuses mainly on reading charts and graphs.

Below is a list of the remaining test dates in 2019.

ACT & SAT Test Dates (2018-2019)

Be sure to check back in next week as we discuss time management and pacing tips that’ll help you achieve the test score of your dreams.

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  • […] Understanding the format, instructions and the type of questions on the exam will help save some time on test day. Knowing what to expect is also key to creating a more effective study plan. Not sure whether you should take the SAT or ACT? Refer to our previous blog to find out which exam is right for you. […]

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