“You need to take the SAT if you’re applying to the Ivies.”
“If you’re bad at Science you shouldn’t take the ACT.”
These are just some of the rumors that have been swirling around our culture about test prep for the past decade. While many of these used to be true, In 2019, most are a bit dated.
Ever since the SAT was redesigned in 2016, the two tests are more similar than ever.
Both the SAT and ACT…
…have no guessing penalty.
…have an optional essay.
…consist of 4 sections.
…are weighed equally by all 4-year colleges and universities in the country.
However, there is still one big difference between the two tests.
THE ACT HAS TIGHTER TIMING THAN THE SAT
By far the most significant difference between the two tests is that the ACT moves at a much faster pace than the SAT. Compare for example the Reading sections of each test.
On the SAT, students have 65 minutes to answer 52 questions. That’s 1 minute and 15 seconds per question.
But on the ACT, students have 35 minutes to answer 40 questions. That leaves them only 53 seconds per question.
On the Writing sections, the SAT gives 1 minute and 15 seconds per question, whereas the ACT gives students 36 seconds per question.
For students who tend to work more slowly, the ACT could present a greater challenge. If they’re not able to answer every question on a section, their score will expectedly be lower.
While pacing can be a challenge, it can be improved. Many students come to us struggling to finish sections in time. Over the course of their prep, though, they become more efficient and are able to push themselves faster.
However, if a student comes to us who is seriously struggling to finish the sections of the SAT in the given time, I wouldn’t recommend they take the ACT.
While pacing is the biggest difference between the two tests, there are some other, smaller differences you might want to consider as well.
LESS SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SAT AND ACT
1. ACT Math section generally asks questions in a more straightforward way.
2. ACT Math tests more trigonometry.
3. ACT allows the use of a calculator on every Math question. The SAT doesn’t.
4. ACT has a Science section. Although, it doesn’t test a lot of scientific concepts. It should really be called the logic and reasoning section.
WHICH TEST SHOULD YOUR STUDENT TAKE?
Some students will do better on the ACT; some will have an advantage on the SAT.
Frankly, some students will perform roughly the same on both tests.
The only way to be sure of this is by taking ACT diagnostic test to see if they do have a preference for one test or the other.
Once you have an ACT baseline, you can compare it to your students’ PSAT diagnostic using the following table.
Need an ACT diagnostic? We provide them and grade them free of charge to help you determine which test might be a better fit for your son or daughter.
Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be more than happy to help!