SAT vs ACT: Seven Key Differences Between Them

Students applying to colleges in the US are often confused between taking the SAT and ACT. Since both exam scores are accepted for admissions, scoring well in any of these will give you a seat at the college of your choice. Neither exam is tougher or easier than the other. Both exams are structured differently and the choice of exam completely depends on you. SAT vs ACT – What’s your choice?

SAT is more of an aptitude exam which tests a student’s verbal and reasoning abilities. The ACT, on the other hand, is more academic and tests what you learnt in school. The general trend has been that students applying to east and west coast schools take the SAT while Midwesterners prefer the ACT. However, this is not a trend you necessarily need to follow. Take the exam which suits your strengths better.

SAT vs ACT – Key Differences:

  1. Structural differences: SAT tests applicants on 10 sections where they have to jump around between sections. ACT keeps it straightforward by keeping 4 sections.
  2. SAT focuses more on vocabulary: SAT tests you on an array of vocabulary problems. If English is your strong area, go for it. International students, who are typically not good at the language, may opt for the ACT.
  3. ACT has a science section: If you love science, maybe you would want to consider ACT. However, the test does not pose hardcore science problems. It essentially needs you to analyze charts and graphs for relatively simple questions.
  4. SAT has a mandatory essay section: SAT requires you to take an essay which is factored in your score. However, the ACT writing test is optional. Even if you take the writing test, the score is not added to the composite score. Bear in mind that some colleges do require the writing test. So, keep a tab on your college requirements.
  5. ACT tests more complex math concepts: If numbers give you nightmares, SAT might be a better bet. In addition to some common overlap in material, ACT tests students on more advanced mathematical concepts such as trigonometry, logarithms, advanced geometry and the likes.
  6. Sectional scores are important in SAT: Schools tend to check the sectional scores in the SAT. In the ACT however, they are generally more concerned with the composite score.
  7. Costs: While it takes $38 to take the ACT ($54.50 with the optional writing test), taking the SAT costs $52.50.

The course material does overlap a bit but it would be prudent to focus just on one exam. It would also make sense to observe the preferences in the colleges of your choice. Keep these factors in mind before deciding to pledge loyalties in the SAT vs ACT battle.

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