Tuesday, May 11, 2010

ACT vs. SAT -- What's the Diff?

All the schools I applied to wanted the SAT. I assumed that still held. Boy, was I wrong. There's a big business in testing, and in deciding which tests to take.

I had no idea that, according to Fortune, the octogenarian SAT and the boomer ACT (born in 1959) are fighting for college test supremacy. In 2009, the tests were taken equally, with most schools accepting either test.

Some teens take both -- and experts think that is a waste of time and money. A better idea is to find which test plays to the student's strengths. A counselor at our teen's school described the SAT as more strategy-focused, while the ACT is more content-driven. Some test-prep organizations give diagnostic tests in both SAT and ACT to help you and your teen determine which one to concentrate on.

Or start simply. Take the PSAT and the PLAN (pre-ACT) in sophomore year to see not only which scores are higher but which test seems most comfortable.

Here's a good overview of the issue. It offers useful information, including a comparison of the two tests.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I've tutored students on both the ACT and SAT. Here's my comparison:
    - The ACT Math section asks students - do you remember what they taught you in school through Algebra II (including Trig). ACT English and vocabulary in general are much easier than on the SAT. ACT Science is not about science at all, but instead is really about reading comprehension.
    - The SAT Math section covers less material than the ACT Math, but is really about - can you solve some puzzles. Many questions are straightforward, but the difference between students will favor those who like puzzles. The SAT Verbal (English) has MUCH MORE vocabulary than the ACT.
    - So - students who do better on the SAT (relative to their peers, which is all that's important) are those who like to solve puzzles and who have better vocabularies (i.e., they like to read). If these are not your attributes, then take the ACT and study math formulas/problems through trig, logarithms, ...