By now, I think it’s safe to assume that you’ve heard at least a little something about the SAT and ACT exams. It’s a daunting task to navigate the world of admissions testing, but it’s best to be armed with all of the facts so that you don’t waste time prepping for unnecessary exams.
First of all, the exams are drastically different and play to different academic strengths. Rather than get into what makes them different, which is covered here, I’d rather discuss which test is more suitable for specific types of students. In order to help you get started, take this quiz:
Which Test Are YOU?
1. Do you like to read?
2. Is your vocabulary “lacking” or do you have trouble memorizing words?
3. Are you likely to make careless mistakes on math exams?
4. Do you enjoy science?
5. Do you know when to use a semi-colon?
6. Do you have a good knowledge of history, current events, or books?
7. Are you the type of student who does well on tests if you study?
8. Have you done trigonometry yet?
9. How about logarithms?
10. Do you have issues with timing?
Give yourself 1 point for a Yes for all questions EXCEPT 6 & 10. Give yourself 1 point for a No to # 6 & 10. Add ‘em up. If your score is greater than 6, then you are most likely an ACT. If your score is less than a 5, you are most likely an SAT. And if your score is a 5 or 6, either is an option.
Why, you ask…..?
That’s actually a great question. Let’s get into the why’s and how’s of what makes each test suitable to different students:
ACT English v. SAT Writing
Both sections have a heavy focus on grammar and test the same fundamental grammar rules, but they diverge slightly when getting into the minor grammar rules. The ACT focuses a lot more on punctuation, where the SAT will delve into more nuanced tests of idiomatic expression and diction. In terms of the essays, the SAT essay asks students to use examples from history, literature, and current events to support their reasoning in their essay. If your child has a hard time recalling these facts, the ACT essay would be a better fit as the question is usually based on a topic relevant to high school student life.
ACT Reading v. SAT Reading
The ACT and SAT Reading sections both have extensive reading passages, but the SAT section also has several sentence completion questions that test a student’s knowledge of vocabulary. Unless a student has been studying vocabulary for years or has a predilection (SAT word), or knack for reading for pleasure, this is definitely a hard thing to improve overnight as there are thousands of prospective SAT words to learn.
ACT Math v. SAT Math
The bulk of the math questions test the same concepts in Arithmetic, Algebra, and Geometry; however, the sections diverge slightly. The SAT has a reputation for tripping students up who are prone to making careless errors, whereas the ACT does not. The ACT, however, tests students on more advanced topics than the SAT and requires basic knowledge of trigonometry and logarithms.
I hope this quiz helps. For an even more comprehensive assessment of which test is better, you can also have your child take a proctored ACT exam and compare the results to his or her PSAT score to see which is the higher starting score. As always, if you have specific questions about each test, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be sure to get back to you.