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SAT vs ACT – Which One Should You Take?

Should you take the SAT? The ACT? Both? Colleges accept either SAT or ACT scores so you may be thinking “Which test should I take?” The SAT/ACT Insider has broken down the main differences for you so you can decide which test is best for you.

  1. Test Length and Timing– The SAT is a bit longer than the ACT – 20 minutes longer to be exact when you take the ACT with the optional essay. While there is not a big difference in timing when you look at the total time for each test, there is a real difference when you look at the sections. The SAT has 10 sections ranging from 10-minute sections to 25 minute sections. The ACT, however, has 4 sections plus an optional essay section ranging from the 30 minutes to 60 minutes. In addition, the ACT has more questions for students to answer, allowing for less time per question. Some students find the longer sections on the ACT challenging, while others find that 10 sections on the SAT is difficult to manage.
  2. Science – There is a Science section on the ACT. You may be thinking, “Wait! I need to know Bio, Chem, and Physics?” Not exactly. While the ACT does include questions in areas such as Bio, Chem, and Physics, you by no means need to be a science whiz to answer the questions in the Science section. The ACT Science section tests logical reasoning and critical thinking skills. Think of it as a science based Critical Reading section.
  3. Trig – Yep! There is trigonometry on the ACT Math section. There are only a few questions that test trigonometry, but you’ll find them only on the ACT – no trig on the SAT.
  4. Wrong Answer Penalty – There is a wrong answer penalty on the SAT but NOT on the ACT. So, if you guess on the multiple choice questions on the SAT and you guess wrong , you lose a ¼ of a point. What happens if you guess on the ACT and you get it wrong? Nothing. You don’t lose any points and you don’t gain any points. This does not make the SAT more difficult, but for some students, the thought of possibly losing points when guessing can be stressful.
  5. Scoring – This is a major difference between the SAT and ACT. The two tests are scored on entirely different scales. The SAT is scored from 600-2400 while the ACT is scored from 1-36. Let’s break it down by test.
    • The SAT provides students with 3 section scores. A student receives a section score from 200-800 for Math, Critical Reading, and Writing. The essay score on the SAT is from 0-12 and is factored into the overall Writing Section Score. The 3 sections scores are then added together to give the student a composite score. Let’s say you scored a 500 in Math, a 600 in Critical Reading, and a 550 in Writing. Your total composite score would be a 1650.
    • The ACT, on the other hand, gives students 4 sections scores ranging from 1-36. The essay score on the ACT ranges from 0-12 but is NOT factored into any section score. The 4 section scores are then averaged to give a student a composite score. So, if you scores a 28 on English, a 30 in Math, a 28 in Reading, and a 26 in Science, your composite score would be the average of those 4 section scores – a 28.

You may now be asking yourself, what is a good score on the SAT? on the ACT? Well, that depends on what schools you are thinking about attending and the scores you need to gain acceptance into those schools.

Mr. Test Prep will help guide you!

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