Countless research studies have concluded that neither the SAT nor ACT has very high predictive power in terms of students' actual success in college. Yet for almost 90 years, standardized testing has played a significant role in the college admissions process. While a growing number of elite colleges and universities are becoming SAT optional (Bowdoin, Bates, American, Wake Forest, Gettysburg, just to name a few), high stakes testing remains an essential element of the admissions picture for many students.
The SAT may have been the clear-cut choice of previous generations, but the ACT has soared in popularity in recent years. In fact, an almost even number of students now take each exam every year. This begs the question, which test should you take?
Here are some quick facts that may help you decide:
1. The SAT covers Reading, Math, and Writing. The ACT covers English, Math, Reading, and Science. The Science questions are more a test of reading comprehension than a deep understanding of Newton’s Second Law, but if Science is not your favorite subject, the ACT may present more challenges.
2. There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT. The SAT knocks you ¼ point for every wrong answer, making filling in random bubbles a dangerous enterprise.
3. The SAT is vocab-heavy. If you have a strong vocabulary, you may have a significant edge on the SATs.
4. More advanced math is covered on the ACT. If you don’t have a solid foundation in trigonometry, the SAT Math section may be more friendly to you.
5. The SAT is divided into more sections that are shorter in duration. Students with attentional concerns or who prefer moving back and forth between subject areas may do better on the SAT.
6. There is a noticeable gender gap on the SAT. Girls score almost identically to boys on the ACT, while gender inequity persists on the SAT, with boys holding an advantage. Girls who struggle with the SAT may want to consider giving the ACT a try.
College Transitions Tip: It is in your best interest to take both the SAT and ACT at least once. If you score significantly higher on one test, devote the remainder of your preparation to that test. For example, if you perform better on the ACT, register for an additional ACT and spend subsequent months working/preparing to improve upon your ACT score. Ultimately, there is no penalty for attempting both exams, even if your score on one test is lower. Most colleges will consider only your highest test score.
For additional resources, feel free to visit our organization's website at http://collegetransitions.com.