ACT vs SAT: Which Should You Take and Why
The American College Testing (ACT) and SAT exams have long set the standard for college readiness for secondary students across the country. At some point the forward thinking high school student will have to decide which test is the best course of action.
The important thing to remember when reaching that decision is that one test really isn’t any harder than the other – on the surface. But you should know some things going in about the test content and administration. It could be that one suits your personality better than another.
The ACT and Multiple Choice
The ACT, with the exception of its optional writing section, bases everything that you know (and don’t) based on the use of multiple choice questions. This format gives every student a fair shake at scoring high, though the reality is that if you don’t know the material, it will be reflected in your test scores. But at least there is no penalty for guessing! Test questions cover math, reading, English and science reasoning.
In all there are 215 multiple choice questions and 2 hours, 55 minutes to answer (not counting breaks between each testing battery). Assessment includes counting the number of right answers and comparing that number with where other test-takers are on a national scale. That produces a number between 1 and 36 on each section, which is then averaged together for a final composite score.
The SAT, Writing and Problem Solving
The SAT offers a completely different style of testing from the simplicity of the multiple choice. While there are multiple choice questions on the exam, there are also problem solving questions and essay responses. The test consists of 67 critical reading questions that target skills like sentence completion and reading comprehension. The 70-minute time span is broken down into two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute.
The math portion has the same time breakdown as critical reading, but reduces the question load to 54 – 44 are multiple choice and 10 are problem solving wherein the student shows his work. Finally, the 60-minute writing portion consists of 49 questions that test you to improve sentences and paragraphs and also spot sentence errors. These questions are administered in 25- and 10-minute blocks. The essay response is the final 25 minutes of the testing period.
Name your Elixir
Ultimately your success boils down to this: are you more comfortable with multiple choice, or do you enjoy the challenge that comes with different testing types? Both tests have a national scale to which you and colleges and universities can determine how well your scores measure up. Both tests require the use of your brain and the demonstration of knowledge.
While some schools don’t place a lot of importance on the quality of scores when it comes to whether they will accept you, a large portion – especially the more prestigious schools – do. Whichever decision you make – ACT or SAT – is correct as long as you do your best.