Deciding whether to take the SAT and the ACT as her or his university entrance test is one of the most vital decisions a high school student must make. Although the exams are similar in several ways, there are key differences to consider before choosing one and starting your preparation.
A primer of what you must know about the exams before you start preparing given below.
- Exam structure and scoring: Both tests are predominantly multiple-choice with questions divided into parts. The ACT includes four multiple-choice parts: Mathematics, English, Reading and Science.
The current SAT has three portions –math, reading and writing – while the 2016 revision will feature only writing and evidence-based reading along with math.
The ACT essay is elective and the SAT essay is necessary through 2016, when it will then become elective. The redesigned SAT will also remove the penalty for wrong answers, which the ACT does not use.
The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 – 36, where the final score is an average of the four multiple-choice parts. The SAT is scored out of 2400, with 800 points each for math, reading, and writing, and the essay is marked on a scale from 2 to 12. In 2016, SAT scores will be out of 1600.
- Subject areas: For the most section, the subject areas on the two exams are similar. The SAT emphasizes reading and math, though the new evidence-based reading and writing part will weave in social studies topics and science.
The ACT differs from the SAT in two main ways. First, unlike the SAT, it has a multiple-choice part entirely dedicated to scientific skills. Second, the ACT math portion includes problems on trigonometry in addition to the arithmetic, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability topics covered on the SAT.
- Skills tested: The SAT and ACT both attempts to exam your reasoning and problem-solving skills, and this applies to all sections. In addition to reflecting on whether you excel in the subject areas described above, think about what subsets of grammar and English you understand best.
If you are a vocabulary fan, you may desire to look toward the SAT, as it focused a lot of vocabulary. In addition, the 2016 revision will replace apparently arcane terminology with more valuable, context-specific words. If you are extremely comfortable with sentence mechanics and structure, it is important to note that the ACT’s grammar portion places more stress on punctuation than the SAT does.
- Necessary preparation: The problems of how much to study for each exam has no easy solve, as both the type and amount of studying will inevitably be different for every student. In terms of how that studying should be structured, but, the exams do have some differences.
As the ACT is more knowledge-based than the SAT, few people argue there is less use in learning the tricks to solve problems that might typically be better utilized on the SAT. It is vital to learn the material for the ACT and be able to apply it rapidly, as problems tend to be less convoluted, but the exam is less forgiving if you take too much time to solve them.
If you are good in the material but weak in test-taking ability, you probably must have more time to preparation for the SAT, whereas if you have the reverse skill set, preparing for the ACT may require more prepare lectures.
The most vital thing you can do when studying for either test is to analyze your weaknesses early and focus your studying on those sections. You can also track your problems by giving some online sample exam. There are some sites like Expertsmind which provide you best preparation guide for SAT and ACT. Also, do not forget to take many practice exams!
- Registration: The simplest way to register for both exams is online, though both the SAT and ACT also offers the choice of registering by mail. There are multiple deadlines for every test, but it is best to register early.
Registration fees differ, however the standard cost for the SAT is $52.50, while the standard cost for the ACT is $38 or $54.50 if you opt to take the ACT Plus Writing.
- Support resources: The SAT and ACT offer robust support systems with example questions and full-length practice tests that you can do for free. The SAT, with a computerized sample exam, holds a slight edge. Both exams offer several paid options as well as official referencing guides.
This information above is meant to serve as a starting point when deciding whether to take the SAT and the ACT. Although the two exams are not as dissimilar as you may believe, there are still various differences – in content, as well as in approach – that are important to note. Whichever you ultimately choose, memorize to prepare for the test in a way that is well thought out and appropriate for you, personally, as a student.