10 Differences Between the SAT and ACT Exams

Young man taking an exam, close up photograph.

What are the distinctions between the SAT and ACT examinations? Should you take just among the tests or both of them?

Most colleges accept SAT or ACT scores, so you may question if you ought to take the SAT, ACT, or both. It’s even possible you will not need either exam offered the growing variety of test-optional colleges. On the other hand, you might find that if you take the ACT, you still need to take SAT subject tests. A 2015 Kaplan study discovered that 43 percent of college candidates take both the SAT and the ACT.

Many students earn a comparable percentile ranking on the ACT and SAT. Nevertheless, the tests do evaluate different details and analytical skills, so it’s not unusual to do better on one examination than the other. There are some key test differences in between the 2.

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ACT and SAT, Achievement or Aptitude Tests?
The SAT was originally created as an aptitude test. The SAT was supposed to be a test that one might not study for since studying does not alter one’s ability. The brand-new SAT exam, introduced in 2016, is much more of an achievement exam than the earlier versions of the SAT.

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Test Length
The real testing time for the ACT without the essay is 2 hours and 55 minutes, while the SAT takes 3 hours with an included 50 minutes if you choose to compose the optional essay. While the SAT takes a little bit longer, it permits trainees more time per question than the ACT.

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ACT Science
One of the biggest distinctions in between the 2 tests is the science section on the ACT. You do not require to be a science whiz to do well on the ACT.

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Writing Skills Differences
Grammar is very important for both the SAT and ACT, so students taking either examination should know rules for subject/verb contract, appropriate pronoun use, determining run-on sentences, and so on. The emphasis of each test is a bit different. The ACT positions more focus on punctuation and includes questions on rhetoric methods.

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ACT Trigonometry
The ACT has a couple of concerns that require trigonometry, while the SAT does not. ACT trig is rather basic. You need to go into the exam understanding how to use sine and cosine.

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The SAT Guessing Penalty
The old SAT was created so that random thinking injures your total score. If you can eliminate a minimum of one answer, you need to guess. Otherwise, you must leave the response blank. This has actually changed as of March 2016. There is now no thinking charge for the SAT. This was a complicated aspect of the test for many trainees. Now, it is better to guess at a response (after removing all wrong answers) than to leave the question blank.

The ACT has never ever had a guessing charge.

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Essay Differences
The essay on the ACT is optional, although lots of colleges require it. Until recently, the SAT essay was needed. Now, it is optional once again. If you select to compose the essay for either test, you have 50 minutes to write the SAT essay and 40 minutes to compose the ACT essay. The ACT, more than the SAT, asks you to take a stand on a potentially controversial concern and address the counter-argument as part of your essay. For the new SAT essay prompt, trainees will check out a passage and then use close-reading skills to discuss how the author builds his or her argument. The essay prompt will be the exact same on all examinations.

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SAT Vocabulary
The SAT vital reading areas position more focus on vocabulary than the ACT English sections. If you have great language skills however a not-so-great vocabulary, the ACT might be a better exam for you. Unlike trainees who take the SAT, ACT exam-takers won’t improve their scores considerably by memorizing words. With the recent redesign of the SAT, trainees will be evaluated on more commonly-used vocabulary words, not on incredibly rare ones (think obstinate instead of pertinacious).

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Structural Differences
Students taking the SAT will find that the questions get more hard as they advance. The ACT mathematics section is all several option, whereas the SAT mathematics section has some concerns that need written responses.

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Scoring Differences
The scoring scales for the two examinations are quite different. Each section of the ACT deserves 36 points, whereas each section of the SAT is 800 points. This distinction does not matter much. Scores are weighted so that it’s equally hard to get an ideal score on either exam. Typical scores are often around 500 for the SAT and 21 for the ACT.

One significant distinction is that the ACT offers a composite rating that demonstrates how your combined ratings determine up against other test-takers. The SAT provides individual scores for each section. For the ACT, colleges typically position more weight on the composite rating than on specific scores.


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