If college is your goal, then your junior year of high school is going to be a critical one! This is THE year for getting prepped for review and then acceptance by colleges and universities nationwide. Not only do you need to make sure that you have a plethora of great activities and other experiences to fill your application, you also have to complete the applications as well as take a battery of difference tests for admission. The two main tests for every college bound student are the ACTs and the SATs.
Interestingly enough there’s a rule of thumb that “the East and West coast schools value SAT scores more, while the Mid-West wants an ACT score.” While this generally holds true, here’s a break down on the similarities, differences and some other facts to help you determine whether you want to take both tests or not and how to do your ACT test and SAT test prep beforehand.
Like any student, a first question is usually, “What’s on the test?” The two test have similarities and some slight differences. The SAT only covers the three main subjects:
All three of these topics are mandatory.
The ACT test, on the other hand, Mtests you in Math, English, Reading, Science and Writing (if you choose to do this one). And yes, you read that correctly – if you CHOOSE to do the writing test portion. But note, and this is a very important note, some colleges and universities require the writing portion of the test be taken. So before opting out, make sure you know which schools will be receiving these test scores and compare that with their requirements to make sure you are covered. If you haven’t come up with a final list of schools then it’s our recommendation that you take the writing portion as well to insure that you aren’t re-taking the entire again. Cover your bases and you’ll better off!
No, these tests aren’t free there is a fee for each test and each time that you take the test. The actual cost for the test is pretty close to identical so that shouldn’t weigh into your testing taking decision. If you know which one you schools are requiring you might be able to save some money and brain power by choosing one test over the other. And like we mentioned above, if you are still not sure exactly which schools you are applying to take both sets of tests. Yes, we realize what this means.
One note – there’s a fee for every school you send the test results to. So once your roster of schools is complete only choose one test per school based on their requirements. That way you pay the minimum amount needed for score submissions.
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This is probably the area where the two tests vary the most. The SAT test measures your verbal abilities and reasoning or aptitude skills. It doesn’t rely solely on what you’ve learned in school which can throw some people that take the test. The ACT measures what your knowledge is and what you’ve learned in school. Obviously you better have paid attention because this means you’ll see questions related to what you should have covered and learned by the time you take the test. The SAT may have article, charts or graphs on topics you never studied. But don’t worry, even if you haven’t studied the topic there is enough information presented to analyze and respond to the topics.
One BIG difference between the two exams is that the SAT test does ding you for missed or wrong answers. Yup, you read that correctly. Each wrong answer costs you one quarter of one point. But questions that are not answered do not cost you anything. So, for an example, if you were to answer one question correctly and the following four wrong, you would have earned a score of 0 for that group of questions.
This makes many say that the ACT test is easier since that penalty doesn’t exist. And there are a lot of students that take both and says that as well. Part of the reasoning behind this is the fact that the topics covered on the ACT exam are questions on topics that you have covered in high school (or should have…..). So there’s a greater comfort level or ease in dealing with these question when compared to some on the SAT test. The SAT test on the other hand, will have some unfamiliar information and is wanting you to use your critical reasoning functions to determine the correct responses. Because of the unfamiliarity with this type of testing and information, more students are nervous and concerned about the SAT test.
Both the ACT test and the SAT test are rights of passage from high school to college. So worrying and stressing won’t change the situation. Finding the right test for schools you are interested and prepping and be prepared will make the difference that you need.