Big news this week from the College Board that they will release a new and improved SAT in the spring of 2016. Many of the changes will make the SAT more like the ACT. Over the last few years more students have been taking the ACT over the SAT and many high schools use the ACT for their end of year exam. But for the next two years, students still have to decide – SAT or ACT or both? Almost all colleges accept either test leaving many students wondering which test to take. Here are some differences that may help you decide.
The timing and pacing on the ACT is generally considered faster then the SAT. If you are a student who feels pressured by time constraints, the SAT might be a more comfortable format for you.
Unlike the SAT, the ACT test has a science section with biology, chemistry and basic physics questions. A student who understands graphs, scientific hypotheses will do well on this section. On the other hand, if you love words, the SAT places more emphasize on vocabulary.
The ACT also has a few basic trigonometry questions, where the SAT does not. The ACT math section is all multiple choice, where the SAT has about ten math questions which require a written response. If providing written answers stresses you out, you might do better on the ACT math section.
Finally, the ways the test scores are reported vary. The SAT has three distinct sections— verbal, math and writing—each section is recorded on the college application. The ACT also reports individual scores, but computes a composite score using math, science, reading, and English. Many colleges and scholarship applications look closely at the composite score (by thomson). If you do poorly on one section, and outstanding in another section, the composite score could be the best way to go.
Students should also look at SAT and ACT test dates and try to rule out dates that happen after late night events like Homecoming or the Prom. New brain research indicates that students should get a good night’s sleep (8-10 hours) a full week before important tests.
Students can raise their scores by taking practice tests and test prep classes, like those offered on Tutor.com. Students, who are more prepared to take the tests, will raise their scores and increase admissions chances.