So you know your child will need to take college entrance exams as part of the college admissions process, but which test should he take and when?
The SAT and the ACT
are the two main exams your child will need to take. The tests are more similar
than before since the SAT was redesigned in 2016, but there are some
differences you should know about to help decide which is best for your student
to take. Some take both tests, while others choose to take only one. Here’s
what you need to know:
Time Per Question
One of the major
differences between the SAT and ACT is the time allowed to answer each
question. Overall, across all sections, testers have 50 seconds per question on the ACT and 1 minute and 10 seconds per question on
the SAT. One of the challenges of the ACT is it is more time pressured
and students struggle to finish sections. Though the SAT gives more time
per question, the questions often take longer to think through. Neither test
penalizes you for wrong answers.
Both the SAT and ACT
have 4 multiple choice sections and an optional essay. The SAT testing order
is: reading, writing and language, math (no calculator), math
(calculator), and essay. The ACT order is: English, math, reading, science
reasoning, and essay. The science segment requires interpretation of graphs and
charts and includes questions about the scientific method.
ACT English vs. SAT Writing and Language Sections
All of the passages
on the ACT English section are at a relatively easy reading level, about 9th
grade. In contrast, the passages on the SAT writing and language section
can vary in difficulty, from early high school to early college. On
the ACT, all of the questions are directly related to the text, but on the
SAT, you’ll see a few informational graphic questions about tables and graphs
connected to the text.
ACT vs. SAT Math
Both tests cover: mathematics,
algebra I & II, geometry, and trigonometry. The SAT throws in some data analysis as well. A calculator is allowed for
every math problem on the ACT, however the SAT includes a 25 minute no-calculator
section with 20 questions. The ACT math section is all multiple choice, and the
SAT is 80% multiple choice and 20% grid-in which means you have to
fill in your answers.
ACT vs. SAT Reading
The ACT has 4 long
reading passages (700-900 words), and the SAT has 5 shorter reading passages (500-750 words). Both have a set of
paired passages to compare. The SAT reading passages are more complex and use a
special question type called "command of evidence."
Now that you know the
similarities and differences between the SAT and ACT, which test is better for
your child? You may already know based on your child’s education or abilities.
Is he better at critical thinking or remembering everything he’s learned? Just
for fun, your child can take a critical thinking test to see how good he is at
creative problem solving. Here’s the link to the test: http://www.criticalthinking.com/critical-thinker-quiz
Kaplan has created a
sample of both tests that your child can take to determine which one better
measures his strengths. The test includes four sections of SAT questions and
three sections of ACT questions. Here’s the link to the sample tests:
Most students wait
until their 11th grade year to begin testing; however, it can be beneficial
to begin in 10th grade. Getting a “baseline” early can help pinpoint weak
areas, enabling your child to focus on those areas when prepping for the next