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SAT or ACT?

It depends on YOUR type!

At ACE we tutor both the SAT (#SAT) and the ACT (#ACT) and we get this questions often. After many years of tutoring, we feel the answer depends on the type of student you are. Usually when a student come in to be tutored, they know and have preconceived notion of which test they should take. The student does not consider the alternative and then decide on which test will maximize their score. These are tests that rank you on a percentile and you are being compared to others taking the same test. If you do better on one than the other, take that test!


If you do better on one than the other, take that test!

The Similarities

Colleges nowadays accept both the SAT or the ACT with equal preference. Both tests are almost identical except for a few exceptions. Both tests have reading, writing, math and optional essay sections. With the NEW SAT starting 2016, the differences in language and math preparation is minimal. Gone are the days of memorizing challenging vocabulary words. On the new SAT we now have "vocabulary in context" questions that test word usage within paragraph settings. Math logical reasoning sections on the new SAT are also toned down and the syllabus is more in line with the ACT. The optional essays are different but similar in their difficulty level. SAT essay questions test you on the context of the passage, the evidence, the reasoning elements and its structure. The ACT asks you to choose one of three arguments and the reason of your choice.


The Differences

But there are differences. ACT asks basic math questions with more depth. Approximately 1/6 of the questions are in advanced math topics like geometric shapes, probability, logarithms and complex numbers. If you are good in math you will feel more at home with the ACT. ACT also has a science section that may help if you have taken chemistry in high school. ACT science passages ask you to look at the graphs and answer questions without knowing the details. ACT science can be tackled with a strategy which has got nothing to do about your knowledge of the subject matter.


The Biggest Difference

ACT is insanely fast.

There is one big difference between the two tests and that is the insanely fast pace of the ACT. You get more questions with less time per question. ACT pushes you at a much rapid pace. Time management is most important for ACT. It is here that you need different strategies in different sections of the ACT. The ACT requires a focused mind that stays strong under pressure. If you can stay focused for the entire duration of the ACT, you will score high.


The Answer

So which test should you take. It depends on your style. Pick the test that is right for YOU. The ACT has surpassed the SAT as the most frequently taken college entrance test. SAT has been there for a long time and has the experience. ACT is rigorous and colleges know that. So once you clear the minimum acceptable score for a college application, the admission counselors start looking at other materials supporting your application. If you don’t meet the minimum bar in your application category, you application is discarded. If you are unsure, set aside two weekends and take both the tests and see where you are comfortable. And once you decide, start preparing immediately. Good luck!

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