Comparison Between SAT and ACT Tests

SAT and ACT - Which One Should You Prefer

Candidates who want to study in colleges of the USA have to appear for either SAT or ACT examination. But candidates are often faced with the dilemma as to which of the two examinations is better. Candidates always wish to appear for an examination which is easier and hence the probability of a high score is more. However, you should select between the two examinations depending on your strengths and weaknesses. Although, the examinations are taken with the common aim of getting admission in a college yet the two examinations are very different from one another. To help you select between the two tests, the various features of the examinations are contrasted in the following section.

Features of the SAT and ACT Examinations

While selecting between these two examinations you should choose the examination that plays to your strengths. Since both the examinations are accepted by the colleges you can choose to appear for the examination that you are more confident in. To help you decide as to which examination you should appear for, some of the features of both the examinations are discussed below:

  • Examination structure: Both the examinations are designed to test all that you have learnt in your school. The SAT examination comprises 3 main parts which can be divided into the following sections:

    • There are 3 separate sections on Critical Reading.

    • There are 3 separate Mathematics sections.

    • There are 3 Writing sections.

    • You have one Experimental section which is not scored.

    The ACT examination consists of the following 5 parts, viz, English, Mathematics, Reading, Science and a Writing section which is optional. The SAT examination has no Science section. So if you wish to avoid appearing for Science you could consider appearing for the SAT examination.

  • Overall question types: It is usually considered that the SAT evaluates your analytical and verbal skills. It tests how well you apply what you have learnt in school. The ACT usually has questions which reflect the knowledge you have gained during your school years. Thus, here you will have to answer questions taken directly from texts you have covered in school and there is no place to show your critical or analytical skills. The choice between the two tests now becomes a question of your comfort level. If you think you are comfortable with application of knowledge and have good critical and analytical skills then SAT is ideal for you. Otherwise you can appear for ACT if you feel you are comfortable with questions directly pertaining to the subjects you have covered in school.

  • Scoring system: The scoring systems of the two examinations are also quite different. The score for each section of SAT ranges from 200 to 800. Thus, the score scale for this test ranges from 600 to 2400. But the important thing to remember is that there is negative marking for wrong questions. One-fourth shall be subtracted from your total raw score for each mistake you make. For the ACT, the minimum score is 1 and the maximum score is 36 for each section of the test. However, unlike the SAT there is no negative marking for the ACT. Thus, the choice between the examinations depends on your confidence level. If you feel that you will be able to score high in spite of negative marking then you could take the SAT; otherwise you should appear for the ACT.

  • Test time: The test timing for both the examinations is similar. The SAT continues for 3 hours 45 minutes and the ACT continues for 3 hours 25 minutes. Thus, timing is not much of an issue between the two tests. For the multiple choice questions of the SAT you will get about a minute to solve each one. However, due to the larger number of questions that you have to answer for the ACT, the time you will get for each question will be less than a minute. If this is a concern then you should choose an examination accordingly.

The afore-mentioned list outlines the basic features of the two examinations. Based on these features and your comfort level you should select an examination.

Both the tests are taken by students who have completed high school. Although, most colleges accept both scores, yet some colleges prefer one over the other. So gather all the information about admission criteria of the colleges you wish to apply to and it will act as a pointer to help you select an examination. Once you select the examination you wish to take, only then can you start preparing for it. Remember, proper preparation alone will ensure good score in any test.