With graduation from high school fast approaching, students wishing to attend college need to be aware of what tests the colleges and universities require them to take for admission. There are two tests available throughout the United States. They are the ACT (American College Testing Assessment) and SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) standardized measurement test.
What is the difference between the ACT and the SAT? The ACT tests content-based knowledge (generally what you have learned in the classroom) while the SAT tests critical thinking and problem solving skills (generally an aptitude test that tests reasoning and verbal skills). Because there is such a drastic difference in how the two tests are written, it is important that you understand what type of a test taker you are. To point out more of the differences between the two tests:
- The ACT has five sections (or components). These sections include: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test (optional).
- The SAT covers three topics with ten sections. The test includes: 3 sections of Critical Reading, 3 sections of Math and 3 of Writing and 1 experimental section on essay writing.
- The ACT test is given over a 3 hour and 25 minute time length. (This includes the 30 minutes for the optional writing test.)
- The SAT test takes 3 hours and 45 minutes.
- To summarize each test section, the ACT includes Reading Comprehension – 4 readings with 10 questions each; Mathematics includes – Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II and Trigonometry; Science includes – analysis, interpretation, evaluation, basic content and problem solving; and the optional Essay section is of an important topic to students in high school (not included in composite score).
- The SAT’s sections are distributed in Reading Comprehension – both sort and long passages and questions; Mathematics – Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra II; and an Essay on a more abstract topic than the ACT (the essay is factored in to the composite score).
- Scoring of the ACT – based on an average of the four tests, the student will receive a score between 1 and 36. The optional writing test may be figured in with a score of 0 to 12.
- The SAT test scores lie within the range of 600 to 2400, which is figured by adding all three sections together. The three main areas range from 200 to 800 points each with the Essay scoring between 0-12.
- The ACT has no penalty to answering a question wrong while the SAT subtracts ¼ point for each mistake.
- When sending scores from each test, you may choose which test score is sent to the colleges from the ACT but the entire score is sent from the SAT.
You may not have a choice to what test you take for college admission. Most generally the Midwest uses the ACT while both the East and the West Coast use the SAT. In recent years, the ACT is becoming more widely accepted throughout the United States. Check with the colleges of your choice and see which test they prefer.
If either test is admissible, you may want to take a pretest to see which test format is better for you. Kaplan’s website on “Test Prep and Admission” offers pretests for the ACT and SAT. Refer to http://www.kaptest.com/College/College_Home/CO_home.html?cid=17945 and click on the ACT or SAT tabs. Once you have gotten onto one of the pages, look at the content list on the left hand side of the page. Click on Practice SAT or Free Practice ACT. After taking both tests, compare your scores and decide from there. Other on-line sources are available to take a pretest in both the ACT and SAT. The Princeton Review at http://www.princetonreview.com also provides free practice tests. There are many other on-line resources at your disposal. Just search for ACT or SAT pretest.
Take the initiative to search the Internet for free resources including tutorials, preparation books, and on-line and regular classroom classes. Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal. The biggest key to attaining high scores on either test is practice…practice…practice!
Website: “Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions” at http://www.kaptest.com/College/College_Home/CO_home.html?cid=17945
Website: “The Princeton Review” at http://www.princetonreview.com
Website: “The ACT” at http://www.actstudent.org
Website: “Suite101” at http://college-preparation.suite101.com