SAT vs ACT: Comparative Analysis & Guide to Choosing the Right Test (2018)

Are you getting ready to step into college next year? Chances are, you have already decided on which colleges to apply to.

But, you are stuck wondering which entrance exam to take. You are not alone. Millions of college students around the world who wish to apply to a college in the United States have the same query.

Today, there are two main standardized tests for college admissions – the SAT and the ACT. Both are accepted by most colleges.

This means that a student can appear for either. Choosing the right test for you can boost your score and give you an edge over the other applications.

A side by side comparison of both on various parameters will help in making a decision.

Brief Introduction to SAT and ACT

SAT – The SAT has existed in some form or the other since the year 1926. It is owned, developed and conducted by the College Board and administered by the Educational Testing Service.

The test is tweaked from time to time to reflect what students are learning in high school. It tests numerical skills, literacy and writing ability which will help with academic performance in college.

It is an evaluation of a student’s problem solving skills. The SAT score can reflect to an extent how a student will perform in college. In 2017, more than 1.70 million high school students appeared for the test.

ACT – The ACT was first conducted in 1959. It was initially developed as a competitor to the SAT. It is conducted by ACT, a nonprofit organization.

The ACT is being accepted by more and more colleges because of various negative opinions on the fairness and effectiveness of the SAT. In 2011, the ACT surpassed the SAT in the number of test takers.

As per ACT Inc. – “the ACT assessment measures high school students’ general educational development and their capability to complete college-level work”. In 2017, more than 2.03 million high school students appeared for the ACT.

Are you confused yet? A side by side comparison of the SAT and ACT on various parameters will help in coming to fruitful decision.

Acceptance of scores

SAT – SAT scores are accepted by most universities across the US. However, some states mandatorily require it – Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Michigan and New Hampshire.

ACT – ACT scores are accepted by most universities across the US. However, some states mandatorily require it – Alabama, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Number of attempts per year

SAT – Four times per year within the US and seven times per year outside.

ACT – Seven times per year within the US and Canada and five times per year outside.

Language

SAT – The test is provided only in English.

ACT – The test if provided only in English.

Eligibility

SAT – No official requirements as such. The test is designed for high school juniors and seniors.

ACT – No official requirements as such. The test is designed for high school juniors and seniors.

Official website

SAT – https://www.collegeboard.org/

ACT – http://www.act.org/

Knowledge tested

SAT – Mathematics, writing and critical reading.

ACT – Mathematics, reading, science, English and writing (optional)

Length of Test

SAT – Three hours (without essay) and three hours, fifty minutes (with essay)

ACT – Three hours approximately (without essay) and three hours forty minutes (with essay)

Test Format

SAT – Reading (one 65 minute section), Math (one 25 minute section and one 55 minute section), Writing and Language (one 35 minute section) and Essay (one 50 minute section).

ACT – English (one 45 minute section), Math (one 60 minute section), Reading (one 35 minute section), Science (one 35 minute section), Writing (one 40 minute essay)

Coverage

SAT – Emphasis is one testing the student’s ability to face real world situations and comprehensive problem solving.

ACT – Questions are direct.

Scoring

SAT – Composite score on a scale of 400 to 1600, SAT essay scored on three parameters, each on a scale of 2 to 8.

ACT – Composite score on a scale of 1 to 36, writing scored on a scale of 2 to 12.

Number of questions

SAT – The test is comprised of 154 questions.

ACT – The test is comprised of 215 questions.

Wrong answer policy

SAT – no penalty for wrong answer

ACT – no penalty for wrong answer

Calculators

SAT – Not allowed for both math sections.

ACT – Allowed for all math sections.

Score History

SAT – Student can choose which score to send to a college.

ACT – Student can choose which score to send to a college.

Practice resources

SAT – This test comes with a range of resources to help student preparation. Over four thousand free practice questions are provided through Khan Academy, including video lessons. In addition, more questions are provided through the SAT mobile app and twitter platform (@SATQuestion). Over eight free practice tests are also provided.

ACT – This test comes with free daily practice questions, but only one free practice test.

Regular and late registration

SAT – A student has to register about four weeks before the test date. Late registration closes about eleven days before the test date. Late fee is applicable.

ACT – A student has to register about five weeks before the test date. Late registration closes about twenty days before the test date. Late fee is applicable.

Fees

SAT – The student can pay from between $52.50 to $101.50 depending on the country where he/she is appearing for the test for each test attempt.

ACT – The student has to pay $46 (without writing) and $62.50 (with writing) in the US and Canada. For students outside these two countries, and additional $47.50 is applicable for each test attempt.

Fee concessions and waivers

SAT – Students who have demonstrated need are provided with financial aid, waivers and fee reductions.

ACT – Students who have demonstrated need are provided with financial aid, waivers and fee reductions.

Areas of advantage

SAT – Students who excel at analysis, solving math without a calculator, and do not prefer science should choose the SAT.

ACT – Students who can work within time limits without stressing out, are proficient in trigonometry and geometry, and prefer science should pick the ACT.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Both SAT and ACT have their own advantages and disadvantages. The simplest way to pick a test is to do a few practice tests.

Your score and the ease with which you completed the test should point you in the right direction.

SAT vs ACT: Comparative Analysis & Guide to Choosing the Right Test (2018)
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