Determining whether to take the SAT or the ACT, plus when to take it, and how many times to take it can be a daunting process. It is helpful to know the facts about each test:
Section Breakdowns, Scoring, and More
The SAT is comprised of four sections:
- Math segment with calculator
- Math segment without calculator
- Reading + grammar = one score (200 – 800)
- Math with calculator + math without calculator = one score (200 – 800)
- Perfect composite score = 1600
Additionally, a fifth section — an optional essay — is offered. Many colleges don’t consider the SAT Essay score, so please check the admissions requirements for each school you are considering.
The ACT is comprised of four sections:
- Math segment (all with calculator)
- Reading (1 – 36)
- English (1 – 36)
- Math with calculator (1 – 36)
- Science (1 – 36)
- Perfect composite score = 36
Once again, the essay is optional on this exam.
- Both exams assess skills covered in geometry, algebra II, and trigonometry. We recommend that students have completed at least algebra II before attempting either exam
SAT: 58 problems (20 without calculator) in 80 minutes
- lengthier word problems that lend to logical reasoning
- more emphasis on algebraic concepts (e.g. polynomials, complex numbers, systems of equatons, and quadratic functions).
ACT: 60 problems in 60 minutes
- more straightforward
- more emphasis on geometry
SAT: No science section
- The SAT does, however, include some science-oriented graphical analysis questions as part of the reading section.
ACT: Science section included
- No prior subject knowledge is required.
- Students must scrutinize graphs, charts, and experiments, then answer analytical questions based on the aforementioned.
READING AND WRITING
- Both exams are now more similar in these areas.
- 52 reading questions in 65 minutes
- 44 grammar questions in 35 minutes
- reading passages have students looking for meaning and themes
- reading passages stem from subjects such as history, the arts, sociology, and science
- grammar questions are in a content-paragraph format rather than single-sentence questions
- Optional essay: students analyze a text such as an essay, op-ed piece, or a speech and analyze the author’s strategies.
- 40 reading questions in 35 minutes
- 75 grammar questions in 45 minutes
- questions and analysis are similar to the SAT above
- Optional essay: students defend, refute, or qualify a perspective on a given issue
So which test should I take?
- If you appreciate order and uniformity, AND you work quickly, take the ACT.
- If you like analytical thinking, logical reasoning, and variation, the SAT may be a better fit.
The BEST way to determine which test is optimal for you, is to take one full-length test of each exam. By comparing your resulting scores, and your overall comfort with the tests, you can make a well-informed decision.
Many students will take the standardized exams multiple times in pursuit of an optimal score. MANY universities will a). Allow multiple scores for admissions; and b). All for “superscoring” the SAT.
What is superscoring?
Superscoring occurs when universities or colleges use just the highest math score and the highest reading score from all of your combined testing efforts:
SAT 1st test:
Math = 650 | Reading = 510 | Combined = 1160
SAT 2nd test:
Math = 620 | Reading = 580 | Combined = 1200
SAT 3rd test:
Math = 680 | Reading = 550 | Combined = 1230
Superscore used by university:
Math = 680 | Reading = 580 | Superscore = 1260
- Take first test during early part of junior year
- Try to attain ideal score by end of summer prior to senior year
- This gives student a good measure of what universities are within reach for him/her given historical standardized test score admittance averages.
- This leaves senior fall quarter available for completing college admissions applications.
If you are not sure which test is best for your student, contact us and we will help determine which test could work best for your student.