The SAT or the ACT: Which One Should You Take?
Everyone knows the importance of high test scores when it comes to college admissions. Depending on where you live and which school your child attends, there’s almost always a “default” test that everyone takes. In the Northeast, it seems like the SAT is synonymous with college, and in the Midwest, the ACT is the name of the game. The reasons for these regional preferences are unimportant – but the potential risks of these preferences are very real.
Every student is practically born to take one test or the other.While the SAT and ACT serve the same purpose, and are similar in many ways, they are not created equal. Randomly picking one of them based on what “everyone else is doing” could be disastrous for your college applications. Fortunately, it’s easy to figure out which test you should take, and once you do, you’ll have a much better chance of getting into the school(s) of your choice.
What’s The Difference?
Both tests are mostly multiple choice, test your math, grammatical, and reading aptitude, include an essay, and run around four hours. Both exams (supposedly) test the material that you learn in middle school in high school. While the material on both tests is remarkably similar (the SAT tests more vocab, the ACT tests a bit more math and has a “science” section that has nothing to do with science), the styles of these tests are incredibly different.
The SAT is great for students who like to ponder questions deeply, take their time, look for root causes, solve puzzles, and use their logical reasoning. It is horrible for students who aren’t good at logical reasoning games, or who need more straightforward directions.
The ACT is great for students who are focused, can work for long stretches without a break, and who have their ABCs of math, grammar, and sentence composition down. It is horriblefor students who get stressed or distracted easily, or who aren’t good under time pressure.
To make an analogy: The ACT is a sprint, and the SAT is a chess game. If the wrong type of person takes the wrong test, they’re cooked. If they switch to the right test, they’ll see an enormous comparative improvement in their results.
Obviously, there’s more to it than this, but understanding this basic “feel” will let you understand the critical difference between these two tests (and the critical nature of making sure you take the right one).
How do you decide between the two?
Understand something critically important: colleges DO NOT favor one test over the other.The ACT and the SAT are taken equally as seriously, so the only thing that matters is which test gives you a better score. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to do
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