The ACT (American College Testing), is a test you can take in addition to, or sometimes in place of, the SAT depending on the college to which you are applying. In some ways, it is like the SAT, but in other ways, it’s completely different, so students who struggle with one might perform better on the other.
The Difference Between the SAT and the ACT
The SAT is made up of English, math, and writing sections, while the ACT contains English, math, reading, science, and an optional writing section. These additional categories provide an opportunity for students who aren’t as strong with vocabulary and algebra to still score well!
SAT questions are designed to be a little tricky and confusing, while ACT questions tend to be more straightforward. For this reason, the SAT allows more time for each question than the ACT. This means that students who tend to get bogged down and behind with wording might have an easier time with the ACT.
On the SAT, wrong answers convert to points scored against you. On the ACT, wrong answers don’t count as anything, which means you can guess all you want on the ACT without taking any penalty for it. Many ACT test takers like the comfort of knowing they will not be penalized for guesses. That alone can really take the stress level down a notch!
The SAT tends to focus more on algebra and geometry whereas the ACT has some of that, as well as trigonometry. Students who sometimes do poor on the SAT because of the algebra tend to be better at the geometry and trig offered on the ACT.
The SAT costs $50 while the ACT (minus the writing portion) costs $35. If you want to include the writing portion, the cost ends up being about the same as the SAT, so you’re not spending anything more to take the ACT.
The ACT is offered six times a year (September, October, December, February, April, and June) in the US. Like the SAT, there are web sites, practice tests, and review books, all designed to help you do your best. You can also retake the test more than once to work to attain the highest score possible. Registration can be done online.
If you’re unhappy with the results of your SAT score, or if you just want to try your hand at a different kind of exam, taking the ACT might just be worth a shot! With standardized testing, particularly the SAT, being under criticism for not being a true reflection of student knowledge, the ACT is believed to be better at creating a snapshot of what it is you’ve really learned in school and how prepared you are for college-level learning.