What’s the difference between the ACT and the SAT?

nullSince all 4-year colleges and universities accept the ACT, students should no longer waste their time prepping for both the SAT and the ACT. What’s important is that a student take the BEST test to show off their abilities and impress the colleges they’d like to attend.
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Taking a Diagnostic Test, like the one we offer here at Pacific Learning Academy, or comparing scores from the PSAT or PLAN, should give each student and their family a good idea on how to spend their time.Many students also have access to full-length practice tests through their school’s PTA, but the shorter diagnostic not only tells you how you would do on both the SAT/ACT, but gives a full report on specific skills the student will want to master before taking the “real” SAT or ACT.
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So — what are the main differences?
ACT: This test measures what you know and what you have learned in school.There are 5 sections and an optional (but most colleges want it) Essay section. Top composite score is 36 (they average the 4 sections).  Your score is based on how many correct answers you have, and there is no penalty for guessing (other than you don’t get the point if it’s wrong!).

SAT: This test is widely considered an aptitude test. It’s not so much what you know, but are you good at reasoning through tricky questions.  There are 3 components: Math, Reading/Vocab (called the “Verbal” section) and a required Essay section. Top combined score is 2400. There is a score penalty for guessing, but you get points just for filling in your name on the score sheet!

Additional differences:
Geographically, you’ll see that the SAT is mostly taken on the East and West Coasts, which the ACT seems to dominate the middle states. I think this geographic preference will begin to disappear now that students understand they can take either test.

The ACT has a Science section, unlike the SAT, but we’ve found that it’s really more of a reading test. Can you read and interpret a graph? Can you read for detail and understand the main idea? Back in the late 80’s, when I took the ACT, my family was as surprised as I was when my highest score was in Science!

Math differences: The SAT covers up to Algebra 2 material while the ACT includes some Trigonometry. Math accounts for 1/3 of the total SAT score and 1/4 of the total ACT score (since ACT has an “extra” Science section).

What’s really important? — That each student invest their time strategically. Don’t waste countless Saturdays and thousands of dollars on unnecessary prep. Take one diagnostic test (we offer them monthly), decide on a game plan with your family, speak with Pacific Learning Academy about a prep program that is best for you, and decide together when you’ll take your official test. We offer 1-on-1 and small group rates for affordability, and you can work with a test prep tutor on the days and at the times of your choosing. Programs are as long or short as you desire. Call today to learn more about Pacific Learning Academy’s SAT/ACT diagnostic test and test prep options! 425-562-3545 or TestPrep@PacificLearningAcademy.com

March 3, 2012

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