“The specific content is going to vary from SAT to ACT, but it isn’t so much about the content anyway. Prep courses are great because they introduce students to test format, test taking tips and to working timed practice tests. They also allow students to be more efficient with timing, and enable them to develop and streamline strategies for tackling the various types of passages.” — Rebecca Bloodworth, Director of Continuing Education at Auburn University at Montgomery.
We’ve highlighted the key differences between the ACT and SAT below and outlined special tools available to match your teen’s testing style and strengths with the exam that best suits their needs.
ACT: Multiple choice. The difficulty level remains the same throughout the entire test.
SAT: Multiple choice and some written answers. Difficulty level gradually increases throughout the test.
ACT: Math (Geometry and some basic Trigonometry)
SAT: Math (Algebra, Statistics, and Geometry)
ACT: English and Reading. Emphasis on language skills
SAT: Critical Reading and Writing. Emphasis on a strong vocabulary.
ACT: Science (Physical Science, Chemistry, Biology, Earth Science, and Physics)
SAT: No Science.
LENGTH & TIME
ACT: 215 questions, 3hrs. 25mins.
SAT: 140 questions, 3hrs. 45mins.
WRITING & ESSAY
ACT: Optional. 30mins. Emphasis on punctuation and rhetoric strategies. Students will be prompted to take a stand on a potentially controversial topic.
SAT: Required. 25mins. Students will be prompted to elaborate on a general issue using outside examples/ sources.
ACT: There is no penalty for guessing. Students are encouraged to mark an answer for every question.
SAT: There is a ¼ point deduction for every wrong answer.
ACT: Test achievement.
SAT: Test Apptitude
ACT: Each section is scored out of 36 points
SAT: Each section is scored out of 800 points and is weighted.
Knowing the Difference:
Tools to Help You Choose the Best Test for Your Teen
Since most colleges accept scores from either the ACT or SAT, knowing which exam to zero in on can help maximize anyone’s results.
Check out these three tools to help you make an educated decision when deciding which exam to take.
1. The Princeton Review offers a free, live online quiz on the ACT/SAT to help teens determine their best fit. Visit princetonreview.com
2. Kaplan’s SAT/ACT Combo Practice Test meshes sections of both tests and lets participants see the results to gain a sense of how well they might do on either test. Check out kaptest.com to learn more.
3. The old fashioned way:
Does your teen:
A. need more time allotted to answer questions?
B. have good language skills?
C. excel in math?
D. All of the above. If so, consider the SAT.
Does your teen:
A. work quickly on tests?
B. have a wider range of knowledge in science, math and language?
C. feel pressured with a guessing penalty?
D. All of the above. If so, consider the ACT.
Being clear about which exam fits your teen’s testing style and strengths will not only help you save money but it will also help boost your teen’s overall confidence, giving them peace of mind.
• At many universities, the difference of one point on the ACT can equate to thousands in freshmen merit scholarships— Auburn University awards $12,000 for 28-29 and $34,000 for 30-31.
• There are about 850 test-optional colleges in the U.S.
• More than 1.84 million 2014 high school graduates took the ACT
• More than 1.67 million 2014 high school graduates took the SAT
**Beginning in October 2015, SAT will launch the revamped version of the exam which will include an optional essay portion. There will no longer be a penalty for wrong or unanswered questions. To learn more about the updated SAT, please visit sat.org