SAT vs ACT – Which Test Should You Take?

SAT vs ACT – Which Test Should You Take?

By | 2017-05-22T07:10:37+00:00 January 23rd, 2015|ACT, College Admissions, SAT, SAT Tips, Test Prep|0 Comments
schoolinterview_small

SAT vs. ACT

It’s that time of the year again as many university admissions offices are now preparing for the incoming 2015-16 applicants. Most high school juniors will be taking a standardized test like the SAT or ACT to include with their college applications, and oftentimes have no idea which test they should take.  Here are some factors to consider when deciding which test will be the best for you or your child.

Cost – Both tests are similar in cost, but the ACT can be cheaper if the school you are applying to does not require the Writing section (ACT only).

SAT

$52.50
Fee waivers are available (restrictions apply)

ACT

$54.50 (with Writing)
$38 (without Writing)

Dates – The SAT has one extra testing date for the rest of the scholastic year compared to the ACT.  However, it is important to consider which Subject Tests you will be taking since they are only offered on certain dates. Check here for more information.

SAT

3/15/15 (SAT Only) – register by 2/13/15
5/2/15 (SAT & Subject) – register by 4/6/15
6/6/15 (SAT & Subject) – register by 5/8/15

ACT

April 18, 2015 – register by 3/13/15
June 13, 2015 – register by 5/8/15

Length – Both tests are similar in length if you take the Writing section on the ACT, with the SAT being longer by 20 minutes.   If you are not taking the Writing section on the ACT, the ACT will be significantly shorter.

*While some universities do not require the writing section of the ACT, most “recommend” it.  Click here for a list of colleges that require the writing section of the ACT.

SAT

3 hours 45 minutes

ACT

3 hours 25 minutes (with Writing)
2 hours 55 minutes (without Writing)

Subjects – The SAT covers 3 categories over 10 sections, while the ACT covers 4 categories (listed below). The SAT places a big emphasis on vocabulary and writing. The ACT has a Science section, but you do not require a comprehensive knowledge of Chemistry or Biology; instead, the test assesses your analytical and problem solving abilities.  The ACT tends to be more straightforward in the wording of its questions and focuses more on content.

SAT

Critical Reading – Comprehension, Vocabulary
Writing – Grammar, Usage
Mathematics – through basic Geometry

ACT

English – writing, rhetorical skills
Math – through basic Trigonometry
Reading – Comprehension
Science – data interpretation, analysis, problem solving

Scoring – Colleges tend to look at the individual sections of the SAT more closely than the ACT.  For the ACT, the composite score is what colleges will focus on the most.  That means that even if you do poorly on one section, if you do well enough on the other sections, you can still end up with a strong composite score.

*College Board will be revamping the structure of the SAT in 2016.  Check our Resource page soon for information about the new structure of the SAT.

SAT

Total – 2400
Critical Reading – 800
Writing – 800
Mathematics – 800
Essay – 12
*points are deducted for incorrect answers

ACT

Composite(average of all 4) – 36
English+Writing– 36
Math – 36
Reading – 36
Science – 36
*points are NOT deducted for incorrect answers

Use by Colleges – Both the SAT and ACT are accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the United States.

SAT

Accepted by all four-year colleges and universities.

ACT

Accepted by all four-year colleges and universities.

Computer-based Testing – Neither the SAT or ACT offers a computerized version of the test for all students. The SAT  only offers computer accommodations for students on the essay portion of the exam and is limited to students who require special accommodations.  For eligibility requirements, click here. The ACT has a pilot program for computer-based testing which it will be expanding this year, but the digital test will most likely only be offered to a select number of schools.

SAT

Students who require special accommodation.

ACT

Select schools only.

Summary – The most comprehensive way to determine which test you should take is to take a full-length practice exam for both the SAT and ACT, and then compare the scores. For a handy score comparison chart to see how one score stacks up against the other, click here.

SAT

Prefers a lot of breaks
Strengths include Vocabulary/Writing
Weaknesses include Science

ACT

Prefers a slightly shorter test
Strengths include Science
Tends to do better on content-based questions

College application season is a stressful time for many students.  Making the right decision, whether it be which college to apply to or which test to take, can be difficult.  Talking to an academic counselor or tutor during the application process can help to clarify your options during this entire process.  For a FREE diagnostic and consultation, click here or call 866.60.TUTOR to start preparing for your test today!

Leave A Comment