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Choosing between the SAT and the ACT

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With the end of your high school career nearly in sight, you may have your college choices narrowed down to a few or you may even have an idea of the degree you’d like to pursue, but there may still be one question on your mind – should you take the SAT or the ACT? Although the tests are similar in some ways, there are differences that may lead you to choose one over the other. However, most four-year colleges accept test scores from both tests and most students like to take both tests to cover all of their options.

First and foremost, if you have a school or several options for schools already chosen, you should find out which test scores they accept and whether or not they prefer one test over the other. If you have a school or specific program chosen and they have a test preference, you’ll have your decision made for you.

As mentioned before, although the tests are very similar in ways, you’ll find some key differences listed below. Think about your strengths and weaknesses as a student and as a test-taker and determine which may be more suited for you.

  • The SAT covers vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing and math. The ACT covers the same topics, although the writing portion is optional, and also includes science reasoning. If you’re interested in a program in the science field, you may want to consider taking the ACT.
  • The ACT tends to be a little more straightforward. The SAT has a strong focus on vocabulary words and tends to have tricky questions that can be phrased in difficult ways, requiring better reading comprehension and problem-solving skills. The questions on the ACT may still be long, but they are typically easier to decipher.
  • The SAT has penalties for answering incorrectly – wrong answers will count ¼ of a point against you. The ACT does not have a penalty and you will not lose any points for wrong answers.
  • The SAT is designed in sections and the questions will increase in difficulty within each section. The questions on the ACT are arranged so the difficulty level is random.
  • The SAT tends to be more popular with private four-year institutions, while the ACT has more popularity with public schools. However, all four-year colleges in the United States will accept scores from either test.
  • The SAT will provide individual scores for each section of the test. The ACT, on the other hand, will provide you with a composite score and allow you to see how you compared to other test takers.

If you’re still feeling confused or unsure of which test to take, take advantage of the practice tests. Both the SAT and the ACT offer free practice tests that will let you get a feel for each. Also keep in mind that while these tests are important they are only a part of your overall educational experience. With serious studying, practice and confidence you should be able to perform your best on whichever test you choose.

Test Prep Academy is the premier SAT/ACT services company for high school students. We offer instructional programs and curriculum for students preparing for the PSAT, ACT, and SAT. Learn more about how we help prepare students for the SAT and the ACT.

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