What's the      Difference?

Scoring the Tests


What's the Difference?

The ACT was traditionally required by colleges in the mid-west, and the SAT was the test of choice in the northeast and on the east and west coasts. But now an increasing number of students are taking the ACT, and the majority of schools in the United States now accept both SAT or ACT test results. Here are some of the factors that make the SAT and ACT very different breeds:

  • The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities.
  • The ACT has up to 5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test
  • The SAT has only 3 components: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test
  • The SAT is not entirely multiple choice. The College Board introduced a new version of the SAT in 2005, with a mandatory writing test.
  • ACT continues to offer its well-established test, plus an optional writing test. You take the ACT Writing Test only if required by the college(s) you're applying to.
  • The SAT has a correction for guessing. That is, they take off for wrong answers. The ACT is scored based on the number of correct answers with no penalty for guessing.
  • The ACT has an Interest Inventory that allows students to evaluate their interests in various career options.

Admissions officers and educators often describe the difference between SAT and ACT in these terms: the ACT is a content-based test, where-as the SAT tests critical thinking and problem solving.

Depending on your particular strengths and weaknesses, you may perform much better on one test than the other. As a result, many students embarking on the admissions process are now considering both the SAT and ACT - to figure out which test provides a better showcase for their abilities.

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