SAT or ACT, Which test is for you?


The ACT, formerly known as the American College Testing Program or American College Test, formed in 1959 is a pre admission test and an adversary to the College Board's Scholastic Aptitude Test, now widely known as the SAT.


There are a few  similarities between the two tests. Firstly, they both are  formalized tests for college admissions and scholarship purposes. Secondly, they both are predictable tests which can be cracked through sufficient study and practice. There are a few prominent differences between them, some of which are listed below:


1. The ACT (American College Testing Assessment) is an objective type test conducted six times a year at various locations. It is an examination focussed on assessing four major areas: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science reasoning. The syllabus covered in the ACT assessment matches up very closely to the topics covered in a typical high school class. Many colleges and universities rely on the ACT scores as part of their admissions process.


On the other hand, SAT includes a Reading Test, Writing and Language Test, and a Math Test. The test structure comprises of 4-sections. Questions related to science are not asked. The SAT has an optional essay component, which some colleges will require.


While SAT II, which is  conducted six or seven times a year, has a  subject-specific test in Maths, Chemistry, Spanish, History, and many other subjects. Most of the competitive schools require you to submit up to three scores.


2. The ACT as well as the SAT since, there is no negative marking points marking for an incorrect answer, enabling the test taker to answer or guess at every single question. The SAT as well as the ACT offers the optional writing test at the end of the test. With a few exceptions, the ACT does not test for vocabulary, but stresses more on the  grammatical part.


3. The Maths section of the ACT includes trigonometry, a topic that is not included in the SAT Reasoning Test (although it is present in the SAT Subject Test covering Maths). Basic geometry and algebra questions are asked. One distinct policy difference is that the ACT does not allow any calculators with algebra systems, including the popular TI-89 .

4. The ACT judges in the range of 1-36 for each subject, averaged for a composite score. A 36 is the highest possible composite score. The SAT scores on 200-800 per section, added together for a collective score. A 1600 is the highest possible combined score.

5. The ACT is more widely used in the midwest and southeast United States, while the SAT is more popular in the northeast and the west coast.

6. The best period for registration for the SAT is about six weeks prior to the test date whereas it is nearly four weeks in the case of ACT.

7. Most colleges accept the ACT in lieu of the SAT. One biggest advantage is that the ACT can be taken numerous times and one can choose which score to submit. The optional essay was added to the ACT in Feb 2005.

8. Some students who do not perform well on the SAT find that they could have done better in the ACT due to the content and the simplicity of the questions. Mirroring the changes undergone by the SAT in 2005, the ACT started offering a writing test in February, 2005. The ACT has seen an increase in the number of test takers recently; ACT enrollment now virtually equals that of the SAT.