Friday, July 19, 2013

SAT vs. ACT: What’s the Difference?

Standardized testing is a way for colleges to compare students across the country on the same scale. High schools vary by curriculum, grading scales, and methodology, so GPA is not as level a playing field as a third party assessment. By issuing the same test to all students, no matter the district, state, or region, colleges can better select students for admission

The SAT – created and run by the non-profit College Board – is a standardized test that scores high school students on mathematic and critical reading skills. Within the last several years, a writing portion has been added. Students have 25 minutes to formulate an essay on a prompt provided in the section. The essay is scored on a scale of 1 to 6 and is graded by two readers. Before this addition, the test was all multiple choice, aside from a math problems calculated within the test packet. However, because essay writing is a significant component of college, this written portion gives colleges a bit more insight into a student’s ability and possible performance if admitted.

The ACT is run by ACT, Inc. and is a competitor to the SAT. Historically, the ACT is not taken by as many students or as broadly nationwide as the SAT, but in recent years this has changed. It seems more and more students are taking the ACT and the SAT or just the ACT alone. The ACT has four distinct areas – English, mathematics, reading and science – and an optional writing section, recently added like the SAT’s. The ACT questions are considered by many to be slightly easier than the SAT but need to be completed in a shorter amount of time. Thus, it all evens out.

Colleges accept scores from both tests. In many cases, which test to take is determined by where a student live and/or wants to attend college. The SAT is popular on the East and West coasts while the ACT dominates the central portion of the country. Both require several hours of your Saturday morning. Depending on the colleges you’re looking to apply to, it might be best to consult the admissions department to see if there is a preference or to at least obtain the school’s score ranges. 

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** This is a sponsored guest post.


Anonymous said...

I personally like the ACT better because it is more knowledge-oriented than the SAT, which tries to be more aptitude-oriented. However, I don't like how the ACT Science section tries to focus on data analysis rather science knowledge. What is wrong with people having some basic science knowledge - like molecules and speed of light and all that good stuff?

mmazenko said...

Good point about ACT science. It's probably the most common complaint I hear from students. The other is the ridiculously low time limit on the reading section.