Deciding Between the SAT and ACT: Which Test is Right for You?

scottbloomdecisionsChoosing the right standardized test for you can make an enormous difference to your college application experience: working with subjects you’re more comfortable with and being tested on a skill set that better matches your own strengths, can greatly ease your study burden and boost your chances of a strong score.

The SAT and ACT are structurally and functionally similar, but their content differs in significant ways that can be used to a student’s advantage. Here are a few things to consider when choosing between the ACT and the SAT:

Similarities Between the SAT and ACT

Let’s start with what these two tests have in common. They take about the same amount of time to complete, and are equally popular test choices in the United States. They require both qualitative and quantitative skills, and each have four sections plus an optional essay. Colleges weigh the ACT sand SAT equally – you won’t be penalized for choosing either exam over the other, so many students choose to take both and submit whichever test they perform better on. All U.S. colleges accept scores from both tests.

Differences Between the SAT and ACT

The main difference between the SAT and the ACT is their content – choose the exam that tests your strongest skills. The SAT is more qualitatively oriented in that it has Reading, Writing, and Math sections, while the ACT is more quantitatively oriented in that it has English, Math, and Science sections. ACT English passages tend to be at an easier reading level than SAT Reading passages, but ACT Math typically contains more trigonometry questions than SAT Math.

The ACT also includes a science section, although ACT Science questions focus on a student’s ability to comprehend and evaluate given scientific information and hypotheses, rather than on his or her outside knowledge of scientific concepts. You won’t need to remember everything you learned in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics class for this exam, but you will need to know how to understand those concepts when they are explained to you using common scientific vocabulary words.

The Optional Essays

Both tests include an optional essay, but these take very different forms. The ACT essay asks you to evaluate and analyze a complex issue. You are given three perspectives on a worldly, relevant question – like the implications of automation for history – and asked to discuss your own perspective on the issue relative to at least one of the given perspectives. The ACT essay favors those with strong logic, debate, and discussion skills. Test-takers are also asked to use reasoning and outside examples to support their arguments, so a strong knowledge of history, literature, and/or current events can come in handy.

The SAT essay, on the other hand, tests comprehension of a source text, and is a good choice for those with strong reading comprehension, interpretation, and critical analysis skills. Test-takers are given a passage to read and asked to examine the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic or persuasive elements. Strong SAT essays typically include references to and explanations of literary concepts like allusion, rhetorical language, and anecdote, so a strong knowledge of English literary components and concepts is also useful.

How to Decide Whether to Take the SAT or ACT

The best way to determine which test is better for you is to take at least one official ACT practice test, and at least one official SAT practice test. (I’ll emphasize official – you want to ensure that your practice session is as representative of the real thing as possible, and a copycat practice test won’t achieve that.)

If you still can’t decide between the two exams, or if you take one and realize you might have done better on the other, recognize that there’s no penalty if you officially sit both the SAT and the ACT. The SAT and ACT are operated by different organizations, so reporting your SAT scores to colleges won’t automatically send your ACT scores to them too, and vice versa. If you take both tests, you can choose to report scores for just one exam – whichever one you do better on. (Keep in mind, though, that some colleges require you to submit all scores you’ve received from each test, so if you’ve officially sat three SAT’s, you’ll have to report all three scores, not just your best one.)

It’s best to devote your energy to just one test out of the two, but ultimately, you can’t really go wrong when choosing between the SAT and the ACT. Apart from the test fees and studying time spent, there is no cost to taking both exams. Play to your strengths by choosing the test with content that better fits your skills, but don’t worry about choosing wrong – you can always change your mind later on! The best option is to start your test prep early in your high school career, in order to give yourself time to explore both tests and to switch to the other one if you need to.

Still need help deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT (or both)? Check out Veritas Prep’s free SAT vs. ACT Comparison Tool to determine which exam is right for you. And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Courtney Tran, a Veritas Prep college admissions consultant and 99th percentile SAT and ACT instructor. Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

The New SAT vs. the ACT: A Simple Test Comparison

Law School Images“Are ‘SAT’ and ‘ACT’ the same thing?” If you’ve been thinking about this question, you’re not alone. Many high school students are curious about the similarities between these two tests and how different they really are.

A quick SAT-to-ACT comparison can help you to decide whether to take the new SAT, the ACT, or both.

The scoring scales for the ACT versus new SAT are very different. The highest score you can earn on the ACT is a 36. There are four sections on the ACT, and you receive a raw score for each section, which is changed into a scaled score ranging from one to 36. Your final score is the average of your four scaled scores. On the other hand, the highest score you can achieve on the new SAT is 1600. You receive a subscore for each section of the new SAT, and your final score is the sum of your subscores.

Math Questions
When making an SAT-to-ACT comparison, you’ll find that both tests include questions on advanced math concepts such as geometry and trigonometry as well as algebra. Of course, knowledge of arithmetic is necessary on both tests. One difference between the two Math sections is that you’re given 60 minutes to complete 60 questions on the ACT and 80 minutes to complete 58 questions on the new SAT. You’re also allowed to use a calculator throughout the Math section on the ACT, but your calculator use is limited on the new SAT.

Science Questions
One major difference in the new SAT versus ACT test is that there’s no specific Science section on the new SAT. However, some of the skills you use in science class are tested in other sections on the new SAT. For instance, in the Math section you’re often asked to analyze the information given on a chart or graph, and the Reading section contains passages that cover science-related topics. The ACT does have a section of Science questions – earth science, chemistry, and biology are among the sciences found on the ACT. You must answer a total of 40 questions in 35 minutes in the Science section of the ACT.

Reading Questions
When making an SAT-vs.-ACT comparison, you’ll see that the Reading sections on both tests share a lot of similarities. The Reading sections on both exams feature several passages accompanied by questions. The SAT has five passages, while the ACT has four. In addition, the two tests share many of the same question types. For instance, they both have main idea, detail, vocabulary-in-context, and inference questions. In addition to those, the new SAT has data reasoning, technique, and evidence support questions. You’re given 35 minutes to finish 40 questions on the ACT and 65 minutes to finish 52 questions on the new SAT Reading section.

Writing and English Tests
There is a Writing & Language section on the new SAT that requires you to improve on phrases found within the given passages. There may be grammar or punctuation errors in the passage or problems with sentence structure. You’ll read the passage and select the better options for the underlined phrases.

The ACT has an English section with passages that also contain underlined phrases. Your task is to find a better alternative to the phrase or, in some cases, select the “no change” option. Once again, there may be grammar errors or problems with punctuation, sentence structure, or organization. You are given 45 minutes to finish 75 questions in the English section on the ACT and 35 minutes to complete 44 Writing & Language questions on the new SAT.

The Essay
When it comes to the essay on the ACT vs. new SAT, both tests make this section optional. For the new SAT Essay section, you’re required to analyze an argument and offer evidence as to why the author’s argument is valid or invalid. Alternatively, the ACT Essay section presents you with three different perspectives on a particular issue, and your job is to evaluate each of them. On both essays, your score depends on your ability to organize your thoughts, present evidence, and convey your ideas in a clear way.

Are “SAT” and “ACT” the same? In some ways, the answer is “yes,” but in many others, the answer is “no.” Regardless of which test you take, our professional instructors can help you practice for it. Look at our video tutorials and sign up for our in-person or online test prep courses today!

Want to learn more about how the SAT and ACT differ? Attend one of our upcoming free live online SAT vs. ACT workshops to determine which exam is right for you. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT and SAT Score Conversion

ACT vs SATMany students who plan to go to college choose to take both the ACT and the SAT – in many cases, students will take the ACT during their junior year of high school and complete the SAT during their senior year. The results of these tests help college admissions officials gauge whether an individual might be a positive addition to their student body.

While some schools will want to see scores for both exams, others request scores for either the ACT or the SAT. Naturally, if a student is applying to one of the latter schools, they will want to take both tests and submit the better of their two scores. This is where the process of score conversion comes in.

Take a look at how some students are using ACT to SAT score conversion to determine which score to submit with their college applications. Also, learn how our instructors at Veritas Prep can help students perform their best on both tests.

The Process of Score Conversion
The highest achievable score on the ACT is a 36, whereas students can earn up to 1600 points on the new SAT. Score conversion allows students to compare their scores on both exams to determine which is more impressive overall – this can be done using a concordance chart (PDF). Though the ACT and SAT are different types of tests, this chart equates their results in a reasonable way.

Students are able to garner a larger amount of total points on the SAT than on the ACT – as a result, a student’s ACT composite score can equate with a range of scores on the SAT. A score conversion can then help highlight the student’s academic strengths on their college application.

What if a student only takes one of the two tests?
A student who takes the ACT instead of the SAT may try to use a concordance chart to predict their possible SAT score based on their current ACT score, however, without having actually taken the SAT, the student will never know how they might have performed. A concordance chart is not a completely reliable predictor of a student’s performance on either exam – instead, it is meant to be used as a means of comparing the results of both standardized tests. A student can determine which of these two results they should submit to colleges by using the concordance chart to convert an SAT score to an ACT score (conversion to SAT format from an ACT score would help in the same way).

Expert Prep for the ACT and SAT
It’s important for students to begin with a thorough study program for both the ACT and the SAT. Veritas Prep offers SAT and ACT preparation courses that give students the tools they need to tackle all of the challenging questions on the test.

Both our ACT and SAT instructors have first-hand experience with these exams – in fact, our instructors at Veritas Prep must have exemplary scores on these tests in order to work for us, as we want our students to learn from the very best! Students who sign up with Veritas Prep will definitely have an advantage over their peers.

Learning Practical Strategies
We use top quality study materials and professional educational resources to teach our students how to approach the questions on the ACT, as well as on the SAT. For instance, we share tips on how to spot and eliminate wrong answer choices so students can find the correct answer in a more efficient way. We also assist students in dissecting their SAT and ACT practice tests to find the areas that need improvement.

As students prepare for the ACT, the SAT, or both, they can meet with our instructors online or in person and benefit from their skills and know-how. We provide students with plenty of encouragement, so they’ll feel at ease when they sit down on test day to tackle either the ACT or the SAT.

We are proud to guide students in achieving their highest potential scores on the SAT and ACT. Contact Veritas Prep today and sign up for our first-rate ACT and SAT prep courses.

Still need to take the SAT or ACT? Check out our variety of free SAT resources and free ACT resources to help you study successfully. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!