ACT or SAT: Which Should You Choose?

After you decide which test to take, consider getting expert test prep tutoring so you can get a higher than average score.

After you decide which test to take, consider getting expert test prep tutoring so you can get a higher than average score.

The SAT and the ACT are both standardized tests for evaluating college preparedness of a school graduate. College admission committees look at the scores of these tests to determine the suitability of a candidate for the academic program she has applied for. There is no particular preference for either the SAT or the ACT. Obviously, the more reputed an institute is, the higher the bars for either SAT or ACT scores. Most colleges will use either the SAT or the Act scores for determining suitability of a candidate. While the SAT used to be overwhelmingly popular earlier, in 2010 the number of students taking the ACT exceeded the number of SAT candidates (1,568,835 vs. 1,547,990). Although some students take both tests, it is generally better to focus on just one of them. The deciding factor should be which of the tests will show off your capabilities best. Some online preparation services offer review tests to determine which of the two tests will be better for you.

Differences in the Tests

You’ll need to understand the differences to determine what is best for you. The two tests look at the college preparedness in somewhat different ways. Let’s look at some significant differences first.

Scoring for the two tests is different. The SAT has three sections (with several sub-sections in each) with up to 800 marks for each section and a maximum of 2400. The average score for the SAT is in the 1500’s. The ACT, on the other hand, is one large set of questions on English, Math, Reading, and Science. It has a writing section that is optional. The composite score a candidate gets is between 1 and 36, which is a composite score of the four skills indicated. The average is 21. Many schools may want to look at your writing ability so they will look at the writing sub-score.

Because the tests are designed as discussed, admission officials tend to look at the individual section scores in SAT whereas ACT scores are treated as an overall figure of merit. For example, an institute like the Harvard will consider an ACT score of 33 or better to be an eligible score while 2200 or better will be required on the SAT. For the SAT score, admission officials will look at the individual section scores too and they will have to be better than 700 each!

Implications for Test Preparation

When you have some strong areas and some not so strong areas, you are likely to be better off with the average scoring system of the ACT. Another issue in favor of the ACT is that the questions tend to be straightforward. SAT questions depend on the comprehension of the words used to form the question to understand what exactly is required of you. The meaning of the question may not be immediately apparent on first read. So, if you think your vocabulary is a handicap, the ACT may be the better choice. People strong in math tend to choose ACT as it showcases understanding of math concepts best. If you are seeking admissions to science and engineering courses, the ACT may be a best option again. It really depends on the college you want to attend and your testing ability.

Whichever test you select, our test prep tutoring service can help you get the score that best represents your abilities. Contact us today!