ACT vs. SAT: Which should I take, and where do I go to sign up? ● All public four-year colleges and universities in the United States will accept either SAT or ACT. ● Most private institutions will accept either SAT or ACT, but some may have a preference of one over the other. ● You can check these test requirements, as well as check what the typical SAT or ACT score for that college or university is, at collegeboard.org, or at that college or university’s website. ● All students take predictive tests for both tests at school, paid for by the state. Students take the PSAT (pre-SAT) in the 10th and 11th grade years; the 11th grade PSAT also can qualify them for National Merit Scholarships if they score well enough. Students also take the PLAN (pre-ACT) in their 10th grade year, which also includes personalized career information with their score report based on a questionnaire that they fill out. ● Some students base which test they end up taking from their comfort level with these predictive practice tests. Others take both tests, and submit the one they did better on to colleges; or send in both. ● The ACT without writing costs $36.50, and plus writing costs $52.50 this year. ● The regular SAT costs $51 this year. Some colleges require an additional SAT Subject Test taken on a different day. These cost an additional $24.50 for up to three Subject Tests. ● Students on free or reduced lunch, as well as a few other categories, are eligible for TWO free fee waivers for each test (2 for SAT and 2 for ACT) total for their high school career. A waiver code must be obtained from the student’s guidance counselor to use when registering. ● Students must show up at their designated test center by 7:45 on the morning of the test. ALL students must have both their printed admissions ticket, which has a clear uploaded photo of them on it, and also a separate acceptable photo ID in order to test. Current school IDs are among the accepted photo IDs. ACT Register at actstudent.org. The ACT without writing costs $36.50, and plus writing costs $52.50 this year. The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. Scores are given as a single “composite score” ranging from 1 to 36 without a subject area breakdown. The difficulty level of the questions is randomly mixed as you progress through a test section. ACT questions tend to be more straightforward. For instance, sample SAT Essay/ACT Writing Test Questions: SAT: What is your view of the claim that something unsuccessful can still have some value? ACT: In your view, should high schools become more tolerant of cheating? The ACT has a science section, while the SAT does not. If you have strength in science classes, this can help. The ACT tests more advanced math concepts. SAT goes through Algebra II; ACT also includes trigonometry. The ACT Writing test is optional (you register “No Writing” or “Plus Writing” when you sign up, while the SAT requires it. However, many colleges require the ACT Writing Test to accept those scores, so find out first! The ACT chunks its content areas (English, Reading, Mathematics and Science) into four big sections, with the optional writing test at the end. If the variety of moving back and forth between content areas would confuse you, the ACT’s setup may be more helpful. The ACT is more of a “big picture” exam, giving a single composite score (plus a separate writing score if the Writing Test is taken) instead of the SAT’s separate subject area scores, which college admission often look at individually. If you are weak in one content area but strong in the others, this can help you keep an impressive score for admissions officers. The ACT does NOT have a “score correction” for wrong answers. Therefore, it is to your advantage to guess on every question on the ACT. The ACT also includes an interest inventory that allows students to evaluate their interests in various career options. Some college counselors claim that the average to above average subgroup of students, who may not have all the “flash” of the top performers, but work really hard and persistently in school may do better on the ACT, because It more resembles another school-based test on the material that they are used to working with already. SAT Register at collegeboard.org. The regular SAT costs $51 this year. Some colleges require an additional SAT Subject Test taken on a different day. These cost an additional $24.50 for up to three Subject Tests. The SAT is more of an aptitude test than ACT, testing reasoning and verbal abilities as well. Scores range from 600-2400, broken into three subject area sections added together. Questions progress from easiest through most challenging in each section, except for Critical Reading passages, Which do the same for each passage separately. The SAT has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary. So if you are great with words and read a lot, this can help. The SAT is breaks up its Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing assessments into ten sections, with the required essay at the beginning, providing for more brain breaks. If moving back and forth between content areas would help to keep you interested and energized, the SAT’s setup may be more helpful. If you, like many people, are strong in many subjects but struggle more in math, the SAT mathematics tests only progress through the content of Algebra II, while the ACT also includes trigonometry. The SAT DOES have a “score correction” for wrong answers, meaning a fraction of a point is deducted for each incorrect multiple choice answer (no deductions are given in math “grid-in” answers). Therefore, if you have no idea which answer is correct from all of the choices, it is better to leave the question blank on the SAT. If you are able to eliminate one or more of the answer choices, then it is generally to your advantage to guess. Some college counselors claim that “bright underachievers who are bored with school” may do better with the SAT, Since they probably have the good reasoning skills for that.
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