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Should I Take the ACT or the SAT?

The SAT and the ACT are both standardized college entrance exams intended to test students’ readiness for college, and both of them are accepted by virtually all four-year colleges and universities in the United States. They also happen to be significantly different in many ways.

Which test is better? Let’s take a look at a few of the major differences:

Subject Matter
The ACT is curriculum-based, testing your knowledge of the subjects you took in high school. The SAT is a reasoning test that was designed to measure your literacy, writing skills, and problem-solving abilities.

The ACT plus Writing lasts 3 hours and 25 minutes. The SAT takes a slightly longer 3 hours and 45 minutes.

The ACT features five major tests that are always presented in the same order: English, Math, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing section. The SAT features three major sections—Math, Critical Reading, and Writing—which are broken into ten shorter sections whose order changes from test to test. One of these sections on the SAT (which may have critical reading, mathematics, or multiple-choice writing questions) is not included in your score, but is used to try out new questions and to compare scores from one test with those from earlier tests. The ACT does not include such a “variable” or “equating” section.

Guessing Correction
The SAT has a correction for guessing—there is a ¼ point penalty for each wrong answer, not including the grid-in math questions. The ACT does not take away points for incorrect answers.

Score Range
If you take the ACT, you'll get a score of 1 to 36 for each of the four multiple choice sections (English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science) and a Composite score of 1 to 36 that is the average of the four multiple choice sections. On the SAT, you will get a score of 200 to 800 for each of the three sections (Critical Reading, Math, and Writing); your total SAT score is the sum of the scores for the three sections, with a maximum of 2400 points.

Writing Sections
The mandatory Writing Section on the SAT includes multiple choice grammar questions and an impromptu 25-minute essay assignment. The ACT Writing Test is a 30-minute essay, and it is an optional part of the ACT. However, many colleges and universities require the ACT Plus Writing as a part of your application.

Predictive Tests
If you've already taken the PSAT in 10th or 11th grade and scored well on it, the SAT may be the right test for you. Similarly, your results from PLAN, ACT Inc.'s test for 10th graders, can be a good indicator of how you'll perform on the ACT.

Which test is right for you?
Though the SAT and ACT are different in many ways, neither test is objectively easier than the other. In fact, students who take both tests usually end up with comparable scores on both tests. Still, many students find that one test is better suited for their test-taking style and study habits.

We recommend that you take practice exams for both the SAT and ACT so you can get familiar with the style of each and find out which test is the right fit for you. Just call your local Elite branch office to schedule a free diagnostic test and consultation.


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Copyright © 1987 - 2014, Elite Educational Institute. All rights reserved. Elite® is a registered trademark of Elite Educational Institute. SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board. ACT is the registered trademark of ACT, Inc. All test names and other trademarks are the property of their respective trademark holders, who are not affiliated with and do not endorse Elite Educational Institute.