HOW TO DECIDE BETWEEN ACT OR SAT

Take a free practice test

December 8, 2016

By The Vault Prep Team

 

It’s an age old question that many high school students ask every year, and it’s a question that requires a decent amount of thinking and research to determine the right answer. Colleges accept scores from either test, and do not favor one particular test over another. We always recommend that students learn as much as possible in order to make an informed decision. Choose the test that best demonstrates your strengths. 

 ACT OVERVIEW

 The ACT consists of five timed sections: English, Mathematics, Reading Comprehension, Science, and a Written Essay. The timing breaks down as follows:

 ACT FORMAT

  • English: 45 Minutes for 75 Questions
  • Math: 60 Minutes for 60 Questions
  • Reading Comprehension: 35 Minutes for 4 Passages with 10 Questions each (40 Questions Total)
  • Science: 35 Minutes for 7 Passages of 40 Questions Total
  • Essay: 40 Minutes for 1 Essay

ACT SCORING

The overall ACT composite score ranges from 0 to 36, with subsection scores given in each subject category (also ranging from 0 - 36). This composite score is achieved by averaging all subsection scores. 

ACT IN THE PREP WORLD

While the ACT has undergone occasional changes in scoring, it has existed in its modern form for nearly 30 years, with its last major overhaul in 1989. As a result, there are numerous tests available for use by both students and test prep organizations alike. 

SAT OVERVIEW

Similar to the ACT, the SAT features sections in Reading, Math, and an Essay. The test differs slightly by adding a section in Writing & Language (separate from the timed essay). The SAT also has no section dedicated to Science. 

SAT FORMAT:

  • Reading: 65 Minutes for 52 Questions
  • Writing & Language: 35 Minutes for 44 Questions
  • Math: 25 Minutes for 20 Questions without calculator
  • Math: 55 Minutes for 38 Questions with a calculator
  • Essay: 50 Minutes for 1 Essay 

SAT SCORING

The SAT breaks down into two sections, called the Evidence-Based Reading & Writing section (EBRW) and Math. Students receive a score ranging from 200-800 in each EBRW and Math, and these two scores are combined for a total score out of 1600 points. 

SAT IN THE PREP WORLD

The SAT has undergone several heavy revisions over the past ten years, with the most recent just this past year. As a result, only a handful of SAT practice tests exist in the test prep universe (compared to over 30 ACT tests). As a result, tutors and test prep companies alike are currently devising strategies and writing curriculum for the best way to approach and perform on the test.  

HOW TO CHOOSE?

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN SAT AND ACT

Aside from content overlap in the areas of Reading, Grammar, and Math, there are a few other similarities between the two tests. Whereas the SAT used to penalize for guessing, much like the ACT, there are now no penalties for guessing. Additionally, while some students perform better on one test over another, more often than not, students place within comparative score ranges when taking one test compared to another. 

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN SAT AND ACT

With fairly similar formats, the biggest difference between ACT and SAT is the presence of a Science Section on the ACT. However, we contend that ACT Science doesn’t actually test knowledge of science, but rather, a student’s approach to data representation and interpretation. Both of which are skills that are instead embedded within the SAT’s Math section. Don’t let the idea of a Science section scare you! 

WHICH TEST IS FOR ME?

When choosing a course of action for your testing path, we first recommend a primary focus on the acquisition of educational skills. What are you strengths? How can you make them stronger? What are your weaknesses? How can you turn them into strengths? 

Concerning which specific test to study for, studying for the ACT provides a wide range of resources toward performing well on a test with a stable history. You’ll know what to expect on test day after working with original testing materials released by the ACT. By contrast, when studying for the SAT, you’ll only have a range of seven tests to choose from, and once those resources have been exhausted, there are only limited options for preparation.