SAT vs ACT: Which One to Take?

Valerie Gregorio, Senior Staff Writer

The SAT and the ACT are both college entrance exams that are required for college admissions. Usually students take either one of them or both twice. They take it during the spring of their junior year and again during the fall of their senior year. Colleges will accept either exams. If you want to know which exam you need to take, then you must know the differences between them first.

The SAT focuses on math, critical reading, and writing. It is also broken up into more sections like one section is the writing section, the next is the math section, and the one after is the reading section.. Moving back and forth between each content can make you more energized or leave you out in the blue. Each section is 25-30 minutes long, which should be enough time to finish. There are 10 sections with an essay as the first section. The 25 minute essay will count towards your writing score. Vocabulary is strongly emphasized in the critical reading section on this test. The math section focuses on algebra 1 and 2, geometry, and basic arithmetic. Each content area will have its’ own score so college admission officers will look at them individually. The SAT is graded on a 200-800 scale for each content. The highest score you can get with all the sections together is a 2400. College admission officers will only consider the critical reading, or the verbal, and math sections so the highest you can earn is a 1600. Know that the new version of the SAT, which will be given out in the spring of 2016, will go back to the 1600 point scale and will be more open and clear with less emphasis on vocabulary and more emphasis on advance math concepts. The essay will be optional and there will be only an evidence-based reading/writing section and math section. This will reflect the common core standards because of how the new version of the SAT is more related to work in high school.

For the ACT, it is more of a holistic exam that focuses on English, math, reading, and science. The questions are more straightforward so you will easily understand it when you first read it. The ACT includes a science section while the SAT does not. You do not need to know actual scientific facts; it tests your reading and reasoning skills based on the information that is given to you. The math in the ACT is more advanced since it includes trigonometry. The ACT Writing test, which it is the essay given at the end of the test, is optional but required by many schools. It is recommended that you take the ACT Writing test, even though it might not be required for some of the schools that you applied to. You will have 30 minutes to complete the writing test. There are only four sections (five if you include the ACT Writing Test) so you can tackle each a huge amount of content one at a time. Also, the college admission officers care about your ACT composite score, which it can range from 1-36, so if you are weak in one area but strong in another, then you can still get a good ACT composite score.

I asked Nick Moats, a LHS junior, about which exam that he prefers to take and why and he said, “I have to say the ACT because it provides a better chance to examine students and see what different subjects/fields they strive in.”

I also asked Kobie Jordan, a LHS senior, about it and he said, “I prefer the ACT because number one, I did not do the best on the SAT. The SAT is way more expensive. Also, for the ACT, if you get a question wrong, then it does not are not count against you. It gets a whole understanding of the student.”

When I asked Matthew Whitley, a LHS senior, about it he said, “I prefer the SAT because I never took the ACT and plus it is easier for me.”

Everyone knows that the SAT and the ACT are both stressful so it is important to know which one to take. If you are a vocab person, then the SAT is right for you. If you excel at advance math and science, then the ACT is right for you. If you are still not sure which test to take, then why not take both and see which you can score higher on. College admission officers will accept the highest score you have earned.