By Dr. Veronikha Salazar
Growing up, I dreaded taking tests. I am not a good test taker, period. But, I had to take them so I can get a grade and have it in my school transcripts. I do not remember hearing about these tests until some people would make a comment like “math is nothing, wait until you take the ACT/SAT test”. I used to be appalled to the thought that there was something harder than my math final. But there was (at least to me) and that was the ACT/SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test / American Test)
Traditionally, the ACT was required by colleges in the Midwest while the SAT was the test of choice in the northeast and on the east and west coasts. But, nowadays the majority of schools in the United States accept both SAT and ACT scores in order to get admission. Hence, I can not tell you which one you should take; but what I can do is help you see the difference between the two of them for you to make a decision of your own. What it may have worked for me or your best friend may not work for you. It really depends on your particular strengths and weaknesses. So, here are a few of these differences:
- Achievement test
- Content-based test
- Has 215 questions
- Questions have a more constant level of difficulty
- Points are not deducted for incorrect answers
- Questions are multiple-choice
- Tests what you have learned in high school
- Tests limited vocabulary.
- Tests trigonometry, English grammar, and science reasoning
- Has up to 5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an OPTIONAL Writing Test
- Science section includes questions in areas of biology, chemistry, physics and earth science
- College admissions officers are more concerned with your composite score
- Testing time is 3 hours 25 minutes (not including the break time) – less time for questions
- Highest composite score is 36
- Aptitude test
- Critical thinking and problem solving test
- Has 140 questions plus the essay
- Questions get more difficult as they progress
- Has a guessing penalty (hurts your overall score)
- Is NOT entirely multiple choice
Tests your reasoning and verbal , NOT what you've learned in school
- Has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary.
- Does NOT tests English grammar
- No Science section
- Has only 3 components: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a REQUIRED Writing Test.
- Math and verbal sections include quantitative comparisons, sentence completions, grid-ins, and more
- College admissions officers care about how you did on each section of the SAT
- Testing time is 3 hours 45 minutes (not including the time for break)
- Highest possible score 2400
As you can see, both tests are a little different from each other. But, both have the same purpose, allow you to get admission to a U.S. school (mainly a 4 year school). If you are planning to go to a community college you may not need to take it after all, as many community colleges do not require either ACT/SAT scores to grant you admission. Though I personally think you should still take either one, at least once (regardless of whether you will be attending a community college or not); especially, if you are planning on applying for scholarships. You will most likely be asked to submit those score along with your application.
Most of my ESL students (due to the bilingualism or multilingualism, I believe) have performed better with SAT. But, I also have several ESL students whose ACT scores were higher than their SAT scores. But, as I said at the beginning, it is your decision. You should try taking a free online ACT/SAT tutorial and have a feeling for what test you may be more inclined to take. How comfortable you will be taking either test is in your hands…. Choose wisely!
If you have any questions or comments, please email me at email@example.com or call me at 912-344-2513. I would love to answer some of your questions!