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College Entrance Exams

College SAT, ACT, and Preparation



Which test is best to take…SAT vs ACT?

If your like most high school students, your asking the question of ‘Which is better for me, the SAT or the ACT?’. Let’s take a look at that question in more detail:

Both the SAT or ACT can earn you admission to college or university, one test often showcases a student’s strengths and skills much better than the other does. Specific diagnostic testing is the preferred way to determine the difference, but each test offers its own set of advantages and challenges:

Advantages of SAT

  • The SAT has 10 short sections, the longest of which is 25-minutes. For students who like short bursts of attention, this format is friendly.
  • Math students who are not skilled in the arts of trigonometry or calculus need not fear SAT math: it is largely a review of 9th and 10th grade math, along with a few reasoning concepts.
  • About 1/4 of Critical Reading questions are vocabulary-based, so those students strong in reading and vocabulary will fare well on SAT Critical Reading.
  • Beginning with the class of 2010 and all successive classes, SAT will offer score choice, that is, students can choose to send their best scores from one test administration while effectively suppressing scores from all others.


  • Challenges to the SAT

  • The SAT is about 4 hours long, a real endurance grind for students without the stamina.
  • SAT penalizes ¼ point for incorrect answers.
  • For those students not thrilled about the prospect of writing essays, the SAT opens with a timed essay exercise that is graded and factored into your Writing score.


  • Advantages of ACT

  • The ACT has only 4 sections, the longest of which is 1 hour. For those who like a simple structure, the ACT administration is lean and clear.
  • The ACT is about 3 hours long, less of an endurance challenge than the SAT.
  • The ACT allows you to test multiple times with score choice; that is, after testing several times, you reserve the right to send only your highest score to colleges.
  • The ACT does not penalize for incorrect answers.


  • Challenges to the ACT

  • The ACT’s time demand can be profound; the reading section offers 4 passages and 40 questions in 35 minutes, a daunting challenge to many. Although its overall 4-section structure is simple, section by section it presents time management challenges.
  • The ACT features a Science section that challenges many students who have difficulty reasoning with numbers and graphs. This section is not at all obviously correlated to in-school curriculum.
  • The ACT tests math concepts that include trigonometry and does so in a math section comprised of 60 questions to be completed in 60 minutes. This content and format can challenge some math students, depending upon their curricular preparation and aptitude.
  • For those students who have had no formal grammar training, the ACT English will certainly challenge their knowledge of colons, hyphens, commas, etc. It’s an excellent but challenging test of proofreading.


  • Both the SAT or ACT can earn you admission to college or university, one test often showcases a student’s strengths and skills much better than the other does. Specific diagnostic testing is the preferred way to determine the difference, but each test offers its own set of advantages and challenges:

    The deciding factor still should be pretesting to determine which test is better. If that is not possible, then sit for a full-length, timed practice SAT and a full-length, timed practice ACT. Compare and contrast. Look at differences in percentile scores. Which test did you prefers. Let real numbers and the your instincts guide your decision

    Below are the score translations between the two test (made available by act.org)




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    • The SAT tests to see how well you think and ACT tests to see what you've learned
    • Intuitive learners (think in terms of the big-picture, themes, and concepts) tend to do well on SATs and sensory learners (detail-focused, fact-oriented, and highly sequential) tend to do better on ACTs.
    • SAT takes 3 hours and 45 minutes; ACT takes 3 hours and 25 minutes (including the optional half-hour writing test )
    • SAT contains 10 sections= 3 Critical Readings, 3 Math, 3 Language and Writing section (including essay) and 1 experimental section which is not scored. ACT contains 4 sections (plus the Writing test) of English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing
    • Subjects: SAT tests for Critical Reading, Math, and Writing; ACT tests for English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing
    • Essay: SAT requires the writing; ACT makes writing optional (although it is required for most highly competitive schools)
    • SAT is 1/3 Math, 1/3 Reading and 1/3 Language Arts & Writing; ACT is ¼ English, ¼ Math, ¼ Reading, and ¼ Science
    • SAT are between 600-2400; ACT, a composite score of 1 to 36. Both SAT and ACT score the essay from 0 to 12
    • Penalties for wrong answers: SAT takes off ¼ point for each wrong answer; ACT does not penalize for wrong answers