With more and more colleges accepting the ACT as well as the SAT, it can be difficult to decide which test will capitalize on a student’s strengths. Both tests are costly to take and difficult to prepare for, therefore it is important to know which test is a better fit in order to maximize the outcomes.
The ACT or American College Test contains four sections; Math, Science, Reading and an optional writing section.
The Princeton Review explains that the three required sections are made up of multiple choice questions while the science as well as the reading sections tests purely comprehension.
The SAT or Scholastic Aptitude Test has four sections; Critical Reading, Mathematics, English, and a required writing section.
According to the Kaplan Test Prep, the Critical Reading contains questions regarding comprehension and sentence completion. The English part of the test also has a sub section for vocabulary.
In principal, the ACT tests what people learn in school while the SAT tests reasoning and verbal abilities. While the ACT test is more straightforward and concrete, the SAT is more abstract and broad.
The ACT is taken in four separate sections while the SAT is comprised of ten sections that switch off between Mathematics, Critical Reading and English.
College Board explains that while the ACT is scored by the number of correct answers, making it worthwhile to guess, the SAT penalizes test takers for wrong answers, allowing students to skip questions with no harm or benefit.
Another key difference between the two tests is their approach to the math sections. Both tests include arithmetic, geometry, algebra and algebra two. The ACT, however, also includes trigonometry. This doesn’t make the ACT math inherently more difficult, just more comprehensive.
Aside from the differences in the math section, the tests also vary in their reporting of scores. The SAT is scored by section on a scale of 200-800. Adding up the point value of each section gives students a total score out of 2400. Essays are scored from 0-12 and influence the total score.
The ACT is scored by section as well. Each section is scored from 1-36 and section scores, except for the writing score are averaged to create a composite score also out of 36. The essay is also scored from 0-12 and does not affect the composite score.
According to the Princeton Review, admissions officers are more interested in a student’s composite ACT score but more heavily weigh individual section scores when looking at a student’s SAT score.