How to Choose Between the SAT and ACT

November 25, 2013 

act vs sat

We are often asked the question: “Is the ACT really an acceptable alternative to the SAT for all colleges?”

The ACT has traditionally been the lesser-known college entrance exam, especially in the Northeast (see a New York Times map detailing the popularity here). However, ACT scores are now accepted by all universities and colleges that request test scores from students. In fact, last year was the first year that more students nationally took the ACT than the SAT.

Philadelphia-area students now have the opportunity to choose which test will best showcase their knowledge and skill set. However the tests are different. Click here to read some of the notable differences between the tests.

Below we describe the notable differences between the SAT and ACT, and offer some insight into our process for recommending which test format would be most beneficial.

Differences Between the SAT and ACT

1. Reasoning and Achievement: The SAT focuses on reasoning. The ACT is more achievement-based, testing knowledge acquired in school subjects.

2. Science: Only the ACT includes a section on science. This section doesn’t require subject-area expertise, but will test whether the student understands the concepts of creating a hypothesis, deciphering charts, analyzing sets of data, constructing a conclusion, etc.

3. Essay: An essay is required on the SAT, presented at the beginning of the test. The ACT essay is optional and is presented at the end of the test.

4. Math: The SAT math sections are more reasoning oriented and present questions that, while requiring math topics learned in class, require a different type of thinking than that used in math class. ACT math questions may look similar to problems your student has faced in class.The ACT also features some higher-level math, including some Algebra 2 and Trigonometry concepts that are not on the SAT.

5. Timing: The ACT places more of a premium on answering quickly, with less time per question.

To see a chart detailing the differences between the SAT and ACT, click here.

Choosing Between the ACT and SAT

A+ doesn’t recommend simultaneously preparing for both tests, as each has its own format and test-taking strategies. Focusing on one test format allows our tutors to maximize their time in helping each student improve his final ACT or SAT score.

We strongly recommend that our students take a practice ACT so we can compare their ACT scores with scores they have received on either a PSAT or SAT in order to help them decide which test to prepare for.

If you haven’t already taken a practice ACT, and you live in the Philadelphia area, A+ will provide you with a free practice test to take at home, or you can attend one of our free proctored ACT or SAT exams offered throughout the year in Wynnewood, North Wales, and Wrightstown, PA.

Do you need help deciding which test, ACT or SAT, is a better choice for your student? Call A+ today at 215.886.9188 to find out how we can help!



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