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Which Standardized Test Should You Take - the ACT or SAT?
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/which-standardized-test-should-you-take-the-act-or-sat-918

Posted: 2016-4-8

by Lulu Curiel

Founder and CEO of Ivy Advisors

Over the years, there's been a lot of deliberation over which standardized test college applicants should take – the SAT or ACT. Prior to 1959, the SAT was the only standardized test available for college entrance, but as universities increased their enrollment numbers and more students pursued higher education, the need for another test emerged.

The old rule was that if you were applying to a highly selective university, you would take the SAT. For many, the ACT was seen as a relatively “fairer” format due to its leniency in certain areas of scoring and structure. Some felt that the SAT presented obscure questions and a rigorous format that was hard for students to follow. But recently, the College Board redesigned the SAT to better align with high school curriculum. It has been said that these changes make the test much more appealing and similar to the ACT.

Today, both the SAT and the ACT are accepted by four-year universities, and neither is valued more or less. However, the two tests still maintain opposing distinctions, and each contains their own set of guidelines.

We believe that understanding your personal testing style, and the advantages and disadvantages of each test, will help you decide which you should take to optimize your score.

Application Timeline

Each test is available sporadically throughout the year; the new SAT is available seven times a year, whereas the ACT is available six times a year. You should start to outline which test you want to take during your junior year of high school, roughly one year before your first important college admission and scholarship deadlines. For most students, regular decision application deadlines are in January and February of their senior year, so they will want to take their last SAT or ACT by December. Students applying in the early admission cycle would take their last test in October.

Both the SAT and ACT have pre-tests available to prepare students with a realistic experience. You'll also want to take these practice tests into consideration when coordinating their test-taking timeline.

Test-taking skills

With the redesign of the SAT, there's a lot of overlap when it comes to what each exam covers. Both exams include a reading test, writing and language test (covering grammar usage, punctuation, sentence structure, etc.), math test and optional essay. The ACT also includes one extra section on science, which covers interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving content.

When deciding between the two tests, consider how you perform as a test-taker. For example, if you believe a little extra time per question would help you move through the test, the new SAT might be a better fit. You'll have one minute, 10 seconds per question on the SAT, versus the ACT's 49 seconds per question. Alternatively, if you're planning to go into a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field and you outshine your peers in science class, then the ACT would be a good opportunity for you to leverage your skills in these areas.

The best way to decide which test you are strongest in is to try them both. If you're concerned with the cost of taking two tests, we suggest trying a practice test or taking advantage of other free resources offered. This way you can sample each section to discover which test suits you best.

Review our infographic below for additional information comparing the two tests.

Founder and CEO of Ivy Advisors

Over the years, there's been a lot of deliberation over which standardized test college applicants should take – the SAT or ACT. Prior to 1959, the SAT was the only standardized test available for college entrance, but as universities increased their enrollment numbers and more students pursued higher education, the need for another test emerged.

The old rule was that if you were applying to a highly selective university, you would take the SAT. For many, the ACT was seen as a relatively “fairer” format due to its leniency in certain areas of scoring and structure. Some felt that the SAT presented obscure questions and a rigorous format that was hard for students to follow. But recently, the College Board redesigned the SAT to better align with high school curriculum. It has been said that these changes make the test much more appealing and similar to the ACT.

Today, both the SAT and the ACT are accepted by four-year universities, and neither is valued more or less. However, the two tests still maintain opposing distinctions, and each contains their own set of guidelines.

We believe that understanding your personal testing style, and the advantages and disadvantages of each test, will help you decide which you should take to optimize your score.

Application Timeline

Each test is available sporadically throughout the year; the new SAT is available seven times a year, whereas the ACT is available six times a year. You should start to outline which test you want to take during your junior year of high school, roughly one year before your first important college admission and scholarship deadlines. For most students, regular decision application deadlines are in January and February of their senior year, so they will want to take their last SAT or ACT by December. Students applying in the early admission cycle would take their last test in October.

Both the SAT and ACT have pre-tests available to prepare students with a realistic experience. You'll also want to take these practice tests into consideration when coordinating their test-taking timeline.

Test-taking skills

With the redesign of the SAT, there's a lot of overlap when it comes to what each exam covers. Both exams include a reading test, writing and language test (covering grammar usage, punctuation, sentence structure, etc.), math test and optional essay. The ACT also includes one extra section on science, which covers interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving content.

When deciding between the two tests, consider how you perform as a test-taker. For example, if you believe a little extra time per question would help you move through the test, the new SAT might be a better fit. You'll have one minute, 10 seconds per question on the SAT, versus the ACT's 49 seconds per question. Alternatively, if you're planning to go into a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field and you outshine your peers in science class, then the ACT would be a good opportunity for you to leverage your skills in these areas.

The best way to decide which test you are strongest in is to try them both. If you're concerned with the cost of taking two tests, we suggest trying a practice test or taking advantage of other free resources offered. This way you can sample each section to discover which test suits you best.

Review our infographic below for additional information comparing the two tests.

 

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