Disclaimer: This article is for the 2005 SAT. Click here to learn about the new, 2016 SAT.
Beep! Beep! Beep! It’s early on a Saturday morning, and your alarm clock is telling you it’s officially time to rock and roll. There’s no time to waste–you’ve got to brush your teeth, grab a pencil, and head down to your local testing center to fill in multiple-choice bubbles for a few hours. It’s a necessary part of the college application process, and it seems like everything should be spelled out for you.
But still, one big question remains that haunts high-schoolers of all shapes and sizes:
Obviously, no two students are completely alike, and your learning and test-taking styles may click better with one particular format, which is why taking both tests is strongly encouraged.
However, time and money are limited resources. Sometimes you just can’t prepare for two critically important exams. Hello, you’re in high school. You’ve got enough on your plate.
So if you can only really prepare for one test, here’s your shortcut:
By all rights, the ACT and the SAT are very similar. They’re roughly the same length and cover roughly the same material. But there are a few important differences in structure and strategy that prove that the SAT is much easier to master with a time constraint.
1. There is no science section on the SAT.
Yep, that’s right. Another way to read this is, “There is a science section on the ACT. A 45-minute long science section that assumes you’ve taken some basic-level earth sciences.”
Now, the idea of a science section is not necessarily the scariest thing in the world. Clowns with chainsaws might have that market cornered. But if you’ve only got so much time to spend prepping for math, reading, and writing, why add another subject to the mix?
With the SAT, you won’t have to split your focus, and you can spend your time with tried-and-true strategies to succeed in the Math and English sections.
2. The content covered on the ACT is more difficult.
As pointed out by this excellent article, the SAT and ACT both have math sections—but the math on the ACT is at a notably higher level.
Specifically, the SAT’s math section focuses on:
This is easy high school math that takes very little formula memorization, especially since the SAT provides formula reference sheets on test day.
The ACT, on the other hand, focuses on:
And you won’t be getting a formula sheet for the ACT, which means you’ll have to have all of those trigonometric formulas stored away in your head. Yikes.
The SAT also has an English section called “sentence completions,” which tests vocabulary words that can be easily memorized with the help of the many SAT prep books on the market.
An SAT section structured like this allows you to gather up some easy points—points you might have lost on the harder sections of the ACT.
3. The ACT is based on learned content–the SAT is based on strategy.
In fact, the official ACT site describes the ACT as “an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school,” and has “up to five components,” which, of course, include the science section.
On the flip side, the SAT is defined as “more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities.”
This means that the SAT questions are structured in a way that they can be easily mastered with certain strategies, even if your knowledge of the subject is a little shaky.
In other words, SAT prep work will take you much further than ACT prep work, which saves you money, time, and at least three-and-a-half headaches.
4. It’s harder to raise your ACT score.
Remember why you’re up early taking this test in the first place? It’s so you can send those nice, high scores off to colleges and scholarship committees.
If you take the SAT and you’re not happy with your scores, you can study again, brush up on your strategies, take it again—and walk away with a score that’s maybe fifty or a hundred points higher.
After all, you can score up to 2400 points on the SAT. That leaves a ton of room for improvement.
But what about the ACT? The ACT is concentrated down to a score of 36. And there are no half-points. Because everything gets squeezed down and averaged out, it can be much, much harder to raise your score the second or third time around.
In fact, if you can raise your ACT score one point, that’s pretty notable. And when you’re looking at time and money spent on prep work, it certainly makes the payoff seem small.
So, wait. The SAT has easier material, tests fewer subjects, and has a much more flexible scoring system? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Overall, these little differences between the tests can turn out to make all the difference in your college admission adventures. So straighten your shirt, grab your prep books, and good luck!
Want to boost your ability to save time and energy with the SAT via free prep materials? Click here:
Co-authored by Dressler Parsons
Latest posts by Todd VanDuzer (see all)
- Writing to Your Best Ability: A Student’s Ultimate Playlist for Essay Writing - September 15, 2021
- Seven Tips to Get Your Finances in Order After College - September 15, 2021
- Becoming a Star Candidate With the Aid of Resume Examples - September 15, 2021
- 7 Tips On How to Stop Procrastinating - September 15, 2021
- What is the Best Way to Learn Java - June 7, 2021