With such an emphasis on college testing nowadays thanks to the scandals and the media, it is important to know the difference between the two most common standardized tests that the majority of the college-bound students are taking.
During my junior and senior years in high school, my classmates and I would only take the ACT test so we could put our scores on our applications for the various colleges we applied to. However, I would always hear about the SAT test as well. Not from my fellow students, but through television and the media. I remember the Saved By the Bell episode where Zack scores really high on his SAT test and it was the one time I wished I had taken it as well. It left me thinking what is the difference between these two tests and why do some regions favor one over the other.
The ACT Basics
The ACT was first created in 1959 and at the time, it stood for American College Testing. However, nowadays everyone just refers to it as the ACT. It is a standardized test used that is used by college admissions to determine overall general student knowledge on school topics.
It was brought about by University of Iowa professor Everett Franklin Lindquist. At the time, the only standardized college test was the SAT ( at first the Scholastic Aptitude Test and then called the Scholastic Assessment Test) and Lindquist wanted his new test to become direct competition.
The test now consists of four sections with an optional Writing section as well. The four sections are Mathematics, Science, Reading, and English. Each section of the test allows the student to score anywhere from 1 to 36. After that, there is a final composite score for the whole ACT test that most colleges go directly to when figuring out if a student will be accepted into their institute of higher learning. Of course, class rank, GPA, and extracurricular activities are looked at as well when determining admission. While the number of teenagers taking the ACT started off slow, in 2011 it surpassed the SAT in total test takers for the first time.
The SAT Basics
The test first began in 1926 and after a couple of name changes along the way, it is now referred to just by the acronym SAT. Just like the ACT, the SAT is used to determine a student’s readiness for college. Scores on the assessment can range from 400 to 1600 as it questions the students on topics like mathematics, critical reading, and writing.
The Differences Between the Two
There are a few distinct difference between the two assessments.
- The fee to take the SAT is $47.50 and if you do the essay as well, it comes to $64.50. The cost to take the ACT is $46.00 with no writing section and $62.50 with the optional writing test included.
- The SAT test takes about three hours to take with an additional 50-minute time limit for the optional essay. The ACT lasts two hours and 55 minutes with an additional 40-minute optional writing test time limit.
- The SAT contains 154 questions with the ACT containing 215 questions.
- With the SAT, the best score you can receive is 1600. The absolute highest score you can earn on the ACT is 36.
- One California based test company has said that students with a strong English background may do better on the ACT as it puts more emphasis on verbal skills. They also said that if a student is strong in math, their SAT score may reflect it better.
Regardless of whether you are taking the SAT or the ACT, it is essential that you are well prepared. It is a very good idea to take a few practice assessments first and perhaps a bit of tutoring as well. After all, if you fail to prepare, then you prepare to fail. And rather than having to retake the test down the road because of a low score, you could just obtain your best score the first time around. If you are unsure on how to go about all of this, iAchieve can definitely help. We offer test prep tutoring on both assessments. Working together we can be positive you are prepared to the best of your ability for either test.
by: Ryan Crawley