Saturday, 2 May 2015

SAT vs ACT : Which is right for you?

Originally Published in The Hindustan Times Education Supplement

Should I take the SAT or the ACT? I hear this question regularly. The honest truth: It does not matter. Colleges view both test equally. Most US colleges require either the SAT I or the ACT with writing.

But how do you know which test is right for you? Try this exercise: without preparation, simulate the testing conditions and take each test in its entirety (i.e., sit locked in a room for the requisite time and take the full exam uninterrupted and unaided). While your scores are unlikely to be high and they may be in the same range on both tests, you will get a sense of which exam best suits your test taking style. Once you have decided whether you prefer the ACT or the SAT, start preparing for that test and forget about the other one.

In India students and schools are sometimes less aware of the ACT option than the SAT. But given the ACT’s emphasis on high school classwork versus aptitude, it is gaining popularity. This is because the ACT is more of an achievement test – it tests what you have learned in school, not just your aptitude for college-level coursework. Further, the ACT includes a science section, which often appeals to Indian students who have excelled in a rigorous science curriculum. Since colleges are indifferent about which test is used, you should pick the one that suits you.

Other parameters to take into consideration when deciding between the tests (at least, with the current SAT and ACT):

·         The ACT includes trigonometry but the SAT emphasises story problems and creative application of concepts

·         The ACT emphasises grammar and syntax while the SAT focuses on comprehension and vocabulary

·         Both tests require a solid foundation in geometry and algebra

What are the differences between the SAT and the ACT?

SAT (for test dates through March 2016)
SAT (for test dates beginning approximately April 2016)
What they Measure
An achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school
An aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities. Not as closely linked to curriculum.
An aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities
Required Components
5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test
3 components: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test.
2 components: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing;  and Mathematics
Writing Test
Optional but recommended
Time Allotted
3.5 hours (without Writing)
4 hours (with Writing)
3 hours, 45 minutes
3 hours with 50 minutes for Essay
Scoring Parameters
Based on the number of correct answers with no penalty for guessing
Includes penalties for guessing incorrectly. That is, they take off for wrong answers
No penalty for guessing.
Scoring Values
36 points total
2400 points total
1600 points total (for 2 required components)
When is it Offered in India?
February, April, June, October and December.
January, May, June, October, November and December
January, May, June, October, November and December

Also note that many colleges will accept the ACT with Writing in lieu of both the SAT I and SAT Subject Tests. So, that means students may be able to better streamline testing schedules in an already hectic 11th and 12th standard calendar. But a few selective colleges, such as Dartmouth require subject tests no matter if you’ve taken the SAT or the ACT so check your college’s requirements.  

Most US colleges in the US will ‘superscore’ your SAT results – that is, they take the highest score for each section from any test date. So, if, you did well on Math and Writing in your first sitting but your Critical Reading is better in your second sitting, the college will look at your highest scores in each section across those two sittings. Note, most colleges will ask you send all your scores even if they superscore. Keep that in mind as you plan your testing strategy. Note, the ACT does not offer a superscoring option.

Other colleges do not superscore, instead they use the highest test score from a single date. So if on the January SAT you scored 2140 and in June you scored 2100, the college will use the January score, even though the June score is more recent and even if some parts of the June score are higher than their counterparts in January.  The ACT is only evaluated on a highest test score by date basis.

So there are significant differences between the ACT and the SAT, but the most important thing to remember is that neither is preferred by US colleges. Both are perceived equally and the choice is yours. My best piece of advice, however is to decide on a test and move on. Do not keep alternating between tests to get a better score. This rarely works and it is a distraction from the demands of school and applications. Trust your instincts and do your best.

The above is an excerpt from: Acing Admissions – The Indian Student’s Comprehensive Guide to US College Applications, by Kimberly Dixit and Kavita Mehta to be published by HarperCollins in mid-2015


  1. I must say we should thank to school management who every time post their latest update which is a big thing. This is really a big help also for online students and have this website.

  2. I personally read about this SAT vs ACT for first but looked me good.Will consider it.For time being I am working on for completion of my next assignment.

  3. I have to state we ought to say thanks to in order to college administration that each time publish their own most recent revise the industry large point. This particular is often a large assist additionally with regard to on the internet college students and also have this particular visit the site.

  4. These kind of course will definitely beneficial for students. Here, they'll learn about writing. and provide many ideas to make their written work great. Here is a link

  5. I think this is really a good decession to have a new professor in the psychology department as there seriously need one. that will give you a clear idea about the writing services.

  6. Decent blog, Educated individual can perform exceptionally well on a wide range of stages throughout everyday life. Training is an or more point in a man life. What is in addition to point? In addition point is depicted by us in composing. Visit site and get our written work and think about the in addition to point.