Cassie Gass, Senior Student Life

SAT, Scholastic Aptitude Test, and ACT, American College Testing, are both tests that you take before you enter college, with the intent to reflect how prepared you are for that leap. The SAT is older than the ACT, though, so some schools still only accept the former. When it comes to studying for these tests, the procedures aren’t too different: you should take prep classes if possible, and get your hands on a study booklet for whichever respective test you’re taking. What’s the real difference in the two? Should one be taken over the other, depending on what school you’re applying to and what you’re interested in? Can you pass either?

The SAT is an aptitude test, which is designed to demonstrate the knowledge you’ve accumulated in your educational career so far. The test score range is that from 600 for the lowest to 2400, being the highest grade you can get. Contrary to the ACT, the SAT does feature a writing portion that’s mandatory, and is graded on a scale beginning at 200 and ending at 800. The cost of this is $49 for each time you take the test. Notably, the difficulty increases the further you go into the test: questions will at first seem straightforward and simple, gradually getting harder as you go through. Many private schools, as opposed to public, prefer SAT scores- but being an older test, schools on both the east and west coast tend to accept them in applications. You can take the SAT up to seven times in the year… if you’re so inclined or ambitious enough to do so. They are almost always taken on Saturdays around 8 o’clock in the morning, as the test takes just shy of 4 hours to complete, not counting breaks. According to Kaplan’s test prep, SATs are far more oriented around vocabulary, as opposed to its counterpart, and of course due to the essay section, does not feature solely multiple choice.

ACT are more of a content-based, meaning that it’s much more forward on what it’s asking of test-takers and that the grade is more concerned about the overall performance in the exam, than the section-driven concentration of the SAT. Arguably a significant plus to this test? You do not lose points on incorrect answers, so guessing is encouraged much more than on the SAT. The difficulty of this test is random throughout, not on a structured incline like its contemporary. It’s scores are also on a much broader scale, with 1 being the lowest score and 36 being the very best; and the smaller cost of $34 is an added bonus. A majority of public schools across the country accept these scores, but so far the test has really taken root from the west coast to the middle of America. Unlike the SAT, this is offered six times per year, and some states even require these test as requirements. The ACT will test you in science and trigonometry proficiency, while the SAT does not. Essentially, the ACT takes a liking to more advanced logical subjects, whereas the SAT is for those who have a knack for vocabulary and view things in an interpretive view.

So, what’s it going to be?  We surveyed some upperclassmen about which assessment they prefer. From the responses, 83% preferred the SAT, while only 17% choose the ACT. Most seem to prefer the SAT because a greater number of colleges are known to accept this, and this is the more familiar of the two. The SAT to them is more “popular” and well-known, making them more willing to take it.  Those who chose the ACT did so with the knowledge that the schools they’re seeking to apply to accept the ACT. We recommend that students take the time to research what assessments their college choices prefer, and make the decision on their specific needs.  Once you know what test you are going to take, find a practice or study guide, and work hard to do your best on the SAT or ACT.  Happy testing!