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Colleen    by Colleen McGeehan – Director of Instruction

With the in-school ACT exam coming up for Wisconsin juniors at the end of the month, the ACT is on a lot of people’s minds. Since all public school students will be required to take the ACT, why even think about the SAT? Here are a few reasons…

1. Any college that requires a standardized test score for admission will accept both the SAT and the ACT. There is a myth that often goes around that only students who want to apply to schools on the East (or West) coast should take the SAT instead of the ACT. This is not at all true–every school that requires a standardized test score will accept both the ACT and the SAT. Colleges will use concordance tables to compare ACT and SAT scores. This is a very helpful resource for comparing scores.

2. There is no science section on the SAT. The science section is the last section of the ACT. Rather than a science content knowledge test, the ACT science section is a science reasoning test. Because of this, it is unlike science tests that students usually take in school. The SAT does not have an entire section devoted to science. Instead, the SAT incorporates science literacy into the reading and writing sections by including graphs and charts that students are asked to interpret.

3. Math counts for half your score. On the ACT, on the other hand, math only counts for a quarter of your score. The second half of the SAT is composed of two math sections (one where you are allowed a calculator and one where you are not). On the ACT you are permitted to use a calculator for the entire test. For this reason, very strong math students might end up with a higher composite score on the SAT. The SAT math question also incorporates “grid in” answers on the math section, rather than being completely multiple choice (like the ACT).

4. You have more time per question… but the questions might feel harder. The extra time is most evident on the SAT’s reading section (you get about 52 seconds per question while on the SAT you get about 75).

My best advice: pick one test and stick with it. There’s no reason to split your time prepping for both. If you have already spent a good deal of time prepping for the ACT, it is probably to your advantage to stick with that test; however, if you’re curious to see how you’d do on the SAT instead (or haven’t started prepping for either yet), I’d recommend taking a full-length practice test and comparing your scores using one of the concordance tables.

If you are interested in learning more about the ACT and the SAT (or the myriad other standardized tests that can play a role in college admissions), join us at our parent chat next week!

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