Friday, August 17 , 2018, 3:25 am | Fair 68º


Rae Largura: SAT vs. ACT — Which Test Is Best for You?

Calling all high school juniors and seniors. It’s time to think about taking the SAT and/or the ACT.

What are the differences between these college admissions exams? The ACT (American College Testing) and SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) are both accepted by all universities and colleges. As a nation, these are evenly taken by students. So, how does a student decide which one to take?

The SAT is a reasoning-based exam, whereas the ACT is a more content-based, “overall view” exam. Each section is given a score in the SAT, and the test as a whole is given a score in the ACT.

The SAT questions are written in a manner that sometimes take some deciphering. Attention is given to reasoning and problem-solving, whereas the ACT questions are more straight forward. The SAT has a strong emphasis on vocabulary and includes a 25-minute writing essay section. The ACT gives a 30-minute writing test that is optional. Secret tip: Take the writing test — always. You don't know which colleges require it.

Both exams apply math, critical reading and writing. The ACT has a science section and the SAT does not. They both take roughly four hours to complete although the pacing is a bit different. The SAT allows 90 seconds per question and the ACT allows 60 seconds per question. ACT math has more advanced concepts, although it is often considered easier to understand due to the more straight-forward approach to the questions. Although opinions vary, in general, both math sections are equal in difficulty. Both math levels include geometry and algebra 1 and 2. Both exams require strong reading skills, although the ACT has the reputation for appealing to the strong readers.

It is perfectly appropriate to take both tests; however, colleges typically want one or the other. It works to your advantage to put energy into the one test that is more natural for you. Colleges not only look at the scores, they like to see your percentile ranking. One high score and percentile ranking will cause more impact to admissions than two mediocre scores.

In closing and with advice, take the full-length practice exams for both exams. Although that seems lengthy, it pays off in the outcome — that one important score for college admission. After doing the full practice, you will show a strength and preference for one over the other. Once you decide which test better fits your style, choose that one; then prep, study, work with someone who knows the test, study more, get a good night's sleep, then officially take the test.

Any subject, any grade: What is your question for a tutor? Email [email protected].

— Rae Largura is president of Leading Edge Tutors. The opinions expressed are her own.

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