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You might wonder why you have to choose between the SAT and the ACT--maybe
one of the two is favored by the students in your school. Ten or 20 years
ago, choosing which test to take wasn't even an issue. Until recently,
the ACT was traditionally required by colleges in the midwest, and the
SAT was the test of choice in the northeast and on the east and west coasts.
But now an increasing number of students are taking the ACT, and the majority
of schools in the United States now accept both SAT and ACT test
How This Affects You
The Power of Prediction
While the SAT and ACT are very different tests, they both fulfill
the same role in the admissions process.
This increased acceptance of the ACT gives today's savvy students a strategic
advantage. The SAT and ACT are significantly different tests, and
in many ways, they measure different skills. So depending on your particular
strengths and weaknesses, you may perform much better on one test than the
other. As a result, many students embarking on the admissions process are
now considering both the SAT and ACT--to figure out which test provides
a better showcase for their abilities.
What's the Difference?
Admissions officers and educators often describe the difference between
SAT and ACT in these terms: the ACT is a content-based test, whereas the
SAT tests critical thinking and problem solving. This perception is one
reason many educators (off the record) express a preference for the ACT--because
they believe that the ACT is closer to testing the "core curriculum"
taught in most school classrooms. In fact, this contrast isn't exactly
watertight. Many questions on the ACT test critical thinking, and there
is a predictable range of material that's tested on the SAT. But
the SAT and ACT reward different attributes, so performing well on each
test can boil down to what kind of test taker you are.
Here are some of the factors that make the SAT and ACT very different
- The ACT includes a science reasoning test; the SAT does not.
- The ACT math section includes trigonometry.
- The SAT tests vocabulary much more than the ACT.
- The SAT is not entirely multiple choice.
- The SAT has a guessing penalty; the ACT does not.
- The ACT tests English grammar; the SAT does not.
Remember, both the SAT and ACT are important parts of your application,
but they're only one of several factors--from your courses and grades
to recommendations and your personal statement--that colleges consider.
There are two major college entrance examinations administered in the
United States today: the SAT and the ACT. Standardized tests like the
SAT and ACT are designed to allow college admissions officers to judge
all students by a common measurement. Scores on these tests can compensate
for differences in high school curriculum, grade inflation, and quality
of teaching. In addition, they serve as a reliable predictor of how you
will perform academically in your freshman year of college.
The SAT is the most widely taken college entrance examination. It
is designed to test your skill level in math, vocabulary, and reading
comprehension. The test is divided into seven sections: 3 math, 3 verbal,
and 1 experimental section. The math and verbal sections each have their
own distinct question types, including quantitative comparisons, sentence
completions, grid-ins, and more. The experimental section, used by the
test developer to try out new questions, is not scored and can be either
math or verbal. You will not know which section is experimental.
The SAT is scored on scale of 200-800 for both the math and verbal sections.
The College Board sets the average for all test takers at 500 for each.
A perfect score on the SAT is 1600. However, in recent years, fewer than
20% of all test takers achieve a math score of 600 or better. Fewer than
10% score higher than 600 on the verbal section.
The American College Testing Assessment (ACT) is designed to test
your skill levels in English, math, reading, and science reasoning. On
the test, you will have 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete a variety of
multiple choice questions divided into four sections – one for each tested
subject area. The English, reading, and science sections each include
several reading passages with anywhere from 5 to 15 questions per passage.
The math section includes 60 questions – each with 5 possible answer choices.
You will actually receive 12 separate scores on the ACT: 1 composite,
4 subject scores, and 7 subscores. However the composite – or scaled –
score is the most important. It ranges from 1-36. Nearly half of all test
takers fall in the 17-23 range.
SAT vs ACT
Until recently, the ACT was required by colleges in the Midwest, while
the SAT was the test of choice for schools in the Northeast and on both
coasts. Now, however, most schools accept both. This increased acceptance
of both exams gives students a strategic advantage. The ACT is a content-based
test, whereas the SAT tests critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Depending on your particular strengths and weaknesses, you may perform
significantly better on one test than the other. Regardless, you should
check with each of your target schools before taking either exam.
For more information on the SAT or ACT, visit www.kaptest.com/college
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