Analyzing the Key Differences Between the SAT and ACT

Which test should you choose? Once you choose, how should you study (and when should you start)?

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Analyzing the Key Differences Between the SAT and ACT

The huge SAT study guide can be daunting (and expensive!). There are many other ways  to study, though, like Khan Academy or Kaplan.

The huge SAT study guide can be daunting (and expensive!). There are many other ways to study, though, like Khan Academy or Kaplan.

The huge SAT study guide can be daunting (and expensive!). There are many other ways to study, though, like Khan Academy or Kaplan.

The huge SAT study guide can be daunting (and expensive!). There are many other ways to study, though, like Khan Academy or Kaplan.

Lucy Garcia, Editor-in-Chief

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Even though the SAT and ACT are household names, not many people can point out the differences between the two standardized tests. These distinctions may not be obvious, but they can and should be used to help students decide which one is more conducive to their success. In order to get into a competitive college, high school students have to make sure that they have a can score high on either the SAT (scored from 400-1600) or ACT (scored from 1-36). This is entirely possible if they choose the test that is catered to their needs and study for it before the test date. When students know what to expect, they can enter their testing rooms with confidence and consequently score higher. Here are some statistics to help any student make an informed decision on which test they should focus on.

The first and arguably most important differences between the two tests are the sections, and the material that is covered in each. The SAT has reading, writing, math with calculator, math without calculator, and optional essay sections. The ACT has reading, writing, and an optional essay just the same, but it only has one math section with calculator and a science section. According to prepscholar.com, “You don’t actually need an advanced knowledge of particular science concepts to do well on [the science] section – you just need to be able to read and interpret graphs and studies.” This difference is key: it means that, on the ACT, math accounts for one fourth of the total score, but on on the SAT it accounts for half of the score. Do you struggle with basic math concepts? That is an indicator that the ACT might be the better choice for you.

Another important difference is time. The SAT gives more time on the math sections; it gives roughly thirty seconds more per question on the calculator section than the ACT does. Do you struggle finishing math problems quickly? If so, the SAT might be the better choice for you.

Lastly, cost must be considered. To sign up for the SAT, it is $47.50 without the essay and $64.50 with the essay. For the ACT, the fees are slightly less: $46.00 without the essay and $62.50 with the essay. To send scores to colleges or scholarships, the SAT is $12 per school and ACT is $13 per test per school.

There are many ways to prepare for either test. Web-based resources are easy to keep up with and can be great for practicing on the go. The ACT’s online test prep website is Kaplan. The SAT’s online prep resource is Khan Academy. Students can also purchase or check out books with detailed SAT or ACT test prep, but these tend to be quite expensive, and many students who buy these books find them daunting and never get around to opening them. Depending on the kind of study habits that are already in place, making the decision to do either online test prep or book-based test prep can shape your experience with standardized testing. Another way to prepare, which is less accessible, is by getting a tutor. There are plenty of tutors around Greenville that specialize in SAT/ACT prep. They can give in-depth practice tests and help out with time management. However, tutors can be extremely expensive.

Standardized testing is important, but it should not overtake any high school student’s life. Freshman Shelby Garcia stated, “I think I’ll start worrying about [standardized testing] around the end of sophomore year. I don’t want to stress about it now.” Generally, students do not even think about studying for these tests until they get a year or so of high school under their belt. During junior year, students can choose to take either the SAT or ACT at school for free. Maybe this year many students will shine on their chosen test after finally understanding that they are better suited to take one over the other.

About the Writer
Lucy Garcia, Editor-in-Chief

Lucy Garcia is Editor-in-Chief of The Herald and a senior at Wade Hampton. This is her third year reporting on staff and her second year as editor. When...

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Analyzing the Key Differences Between the SAT and ACT