One of the most important things you will do as a high schooler is take a standardized test; more specifically, the ACT or the SAT. Each test, lasting approximately four hours long, will help colleges determine if you are a strong candidate for their school.
Deciding which test to take could be challenging because while they seem the same, the two exams actually test you on very different things. Universities accept either of these exams equally so in the end, the one you scored higher one would probably be the better alternative. But before you decide which test you want to focus on, read the following comparisons in order to evaluate which test would be most beneficial to you.
1. The SAT has ten sections while the ACT has five
While they’re both almost equal in length, the SAT has twice as many section as the ACT. The SAT splits its reading, writing and math into smaller sections and disperses them throughout the test while the ACT has four long sections as well as an optional writing section at the end. If you prefer to space out your subjects and brake your work into smaller bits, the SAT might be better but if you like to immerse yourself into the subject and get it out of the way, the ACT would be more helpful to you.
2. The ACT has a science section
It certainly came as a surprise to me but the ACT does indeed have a science section. You don’t necessarily need to know any scientific information to get a high score (although it wouldn’t hurt) because this section mainly tests you on how well you can locate information based on graphs, charts and hypotheses. I find this section to be the hardest but several friends of mine complete this section on practice tests and receive a full score. Try to complete a practice science section or two to see if you would be interested in this form of assessment.
3. The SAT has more vocabulary than the ACT
The SAT is vocabulary heavy. Meaning that there will be about five to eight vocabulary questions in each reading section. If you are good at memorizing definitions, the SAT could be a better option.
4. The ACT questions are more straightforward but have a stricter time limit
Many say that the questions on the ACT are easier to understand than those on the SAT but it’s important to keep in mind that the ACT has a harsher time limit. For instance, in the writing section, you are given forty-five minutes to answer seventy-five questions. SAT questions are more complex and require more time to think. An example from the Princeton Review of the same question posed on the SAT and the ACT:
SAT: What is your view of the claim that something unsuccessful can still have some value?
ACT: In your view, should high schools become more tolerant of cheating?
5. How colleges look at these scores
Universities tend to look more closely at the individual sections of the SAT rather than the ACT, where they prefer to look at the composite score. Excelling in one subject while being weaker in another could still give you a strong ACT score. The same scenario could happen with the SAT where your scores will not be added together, easily highlighting your strengths without having them weighed down by your weaknesses.
After you compare and decide which test would give you the highest score, I still recommend that you take both tests. I focused on the SAT for most of my junior year because I thought that it was the test for me but after taking the ACT once in my senior year, I realized that my score went up dramatically. Don’t rule either test out but it would be helpful to set some sort of priority for either exam so that your free time is not completely taken up by studying.
This is a guest post by Noa Livneh, a high school senior in the San Francisco Bay Area.