ACT vs SAT: Which Test Is Best for You?

Written by Lee Gonet

Each human being reflects God's glorious creation in unique ways and therefore thinks and processes differently. Neither the ACT nor the SAT is harder than the other, and they both test the same general information; nevertheless, they are structured differently, and as a result, a student, typically, scores higher on one test over another.

 

Does It Matter?    

Test-prep can be time consuming and expensive, but high scores are invaluable in gaining admittance to the college of your choice and earning merit-based scholarships. You want to improve as much as possible, so taking a test that demonstrates your abilities to the best possible advantage is important. In other words, don’t waste time studying for both tests!

 

Which Test?

      High schools in Alabama push the ACT, but colleges will accept either test and use a conversion chart similar to the one below. My advice has always been to take both as practice tests and see if you favor a particular one.

      When my daughter practiced the ACT, she came out of her room literally crying, “Mom, please don’t make me take that test.” However, she was comfortable with the SAT and upped her score considerably with practice.

 

Conversion Chart

      To see which test is best for you, convert each of your practice-test results using this ACT=SAT chart from the College Board.

21 = 1060-1090

20 = 1020-1050

19 = 980-1010

18 = 940-970

17 = 900-930

26 = 1240-1270

25 = 1200-1230

24 = 1160-1190

23 = 1130-1150

22 = 1100-1120

31 = 1420-1440

30 = 1390-1410

29 = 1350-1380

28 = 1310-1340

27 = 1280-1300

36 = 1600

35 = 1560-1590

34 = 1520-1550

33 = 1490-1510

32 = 1450-1480

Limit Yourself

            Many colleges believe that underprivileged students who can’t afford to pay for repeated testing or expensive coaching are at a disadvantage. As a result, over 340 schools nationwide will evaluate your overall record (collegeboard.com), and not just consider your highest scores. In light of this practice, I suggest increasing preparation and decreasing official testing.

Comparison Chart

ACT

1-36

45 min/75 questions = 36 sec. ATPQ*

5 passages with 15 questions each

Mechanics 55% / Rhetorical 45%

60 min/60 questions = 60 sec. ATPQ*

Math counts for 25% of your composite

5 answer choices

Pre-Algebra 20-25%

Elementary Algebra 15-20%

Intermediate Algebra 15-20%

Coordinate geometry 15-20%

Plane geometry 20-25%

Trigonometry 5-10%

35 min/40 questions = 53 sec. ATPQ*

4 passages with 10 questions each

1 passage contains 2 sections

1 Fiction or Narrative, 1 Humanities,

1 Social & 1 Natural Science

Questions asked from random sections

Question Types: main idea, vocab, inference, & detail

35 min/40 questions = 53 sec. ATPQ*

6 Passages with 6-7 questions each

65% of passages do not need to be read

Reading charts & graphs, calculating, analyzing experiments

Analyze an argument, provide your opinion, compare and contrast the two

Score Range

English

Math

Reading

Science

Essay

SAT

400-1600

35 min/44 questions = 48 sec. ATPQ*

4 passages with 11 questions each

Mechanics 45% / Rhetorical 55%

80 min/58 questions = 83 sec ATPQ*

Math counts for 50% of your composite

4 answer choices

Intermediate-advanced Algebra 62%

Problem solving & data analysis 28%

Geometry & Trigonometry 10%

Provides geometry formulas

13 grid-in questions (22% of total)

25 questions w/o use of calculator

65 min/52 questions = 75 sec. ATPQ*

5 passages with 10-11 questions each

1 passage contains 2 sections

1 Literature, 2 History or Social Studies

2 Science

Questions asked in chronological order

Question Types: same as ACT, plus evidence-supported, data, & technique

No science section, but 35 science questions in other 3 sections

100% of passages must be read

Reading charts, graphs, & data, understanding scientific concepts

Analyze an argument, dissect its strengths and weaknesses, no opinions

*ATPQ = Average Time Per Question

(More time given on all SAT sections)

For additional information, read Hannah Muniz’s or Alex Hiembach’s blogs on prepscholar.com.

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Content property of Lee Gonet. Some photography provided by freepik.com