SAT or ACT test?

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If you are reading this, it means that you have decided to take the next step in applying to a university in the United States. Today, taking a standardized test is an optional admissions requirement for most colleges, but a good score on these tests is still helpful in beautifying your admissions profile. Choosing an exam can be a daunting process if you are not familiar with its content. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences and advantages of the different standardized tests available for college admissions.

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If you’re applying to college, you’ll find that there are two tests that basically dominate the market: the SAT and the ACT. You may be more familiar with the SAT, but the ACT is becoming more and more popular. Before choosing which exam to sign up for, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each. We have created a list that compares both exams to save you the trouble of doing more research.

The SAT Test

The SAT is a standardized admissions test accepted by all undergraduate programs in the United States. This is scored on a 1600 point scale, with a maximum of 800 points per section. The first of these sections focuses on verbal reasoning and consists of two tests: one for reading and the other for writing and language. Students have 65 minutes to answer the 52 multiple-choice questions on the Reading test and 35 minutes to answer the 44 multiple-choice questions on the Writing and Language test. This section of the test focuses on reading comprehension, grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure.

After the verbal reasoning section, follows the quantitative reasoning section. For this section, students will first have to answer 20 multiple choice questions without a calculator, and then they will have to answer 38 multiple choice questions with a calculator. The entire section lasts 80 minutes, 25 for the part without a calculator and 55 for the part with a calculator. Students will be tested on their knowledge of algebra, geometry, and basic trigonometry.

If you want to know a little more about the SAT, we recommend reading our blog post called Answering SAT Test Questions.

The ACT Test

The ACT test is the other option for those looking for undergraduate programs in the United States. Like the SAT, the ACT is accepted by all colleges. The maximum possible score on this exam is 36 points per section, which are then averaged for a composite score. Students complete four sections, plus an optional writing section.

The first one is the English section which lasts 35 minutes and consists of 75 multiple choice questions. This section tests students’ grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and rhetorical skills. Next comes the math section. In it, students have a calculator and 60 minutes to answer 60 multiple-choice questions covering algebra, geometry, and basic trigonometry. Next comes the reading section. Here, students read four passages, each from a different discipline (fiction, social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences). The order of the passages remains constant. In total, students answer 40 multiple choice questions in 35 minutes. Finally, students complete a science section that lasts 35 minutes.

Next, students can complete the optional 40-minute essay. For this section, students must read a short entry and choose one of the three perspectives offered to write based on it.

What test should you take?

We recommend that students familiarize themselves with both tests before making a decision. Try to do a practice exam for each test and evaluate your performance in each one. In general, both exams cover similar skill sets, so the decision you make will depend on small preferences. For example, if you’re not that good at science, you might be slightly better off taking the SAT, or if you’d rather take a shorter test, the ACT might be better for you. In short, the university will not care what test you take, but your performance on this and the rest of your admissions profile.

Gregory Nyesom

I'm Nyesom Gregory, the Founder, and CEO of Examspot. My love for education and career is the drive behind this blog. I hold a bachelor's degree in Economics and Development Studies. I am an educationist, avid reader, a researcher, and data scientist.