As the spring semester is flying by, it is time to begin preparing for after graduation. If you are college–bound, then you are probably deciding on whether to take the SAT, ACT or both. Most students and parents begin planning for college by comparing and preparing for these exams. While they both generally cover the same topics, certain differences may make one a better fit than the other. Some colleges require both scores, others prefer one over the other, so it is important to pay attention to your school of choice’s requirements.
The SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, includes an SAT Math section, on which you may not use a calculator unless instructed on specific questions. The test is structured starting with a reading section, followed by a writing and language section containing 5 reading passages, a math section, and an optional essay. While the essay is optional, it is encouraged. The time length allowed is 3 hours without the essay and 3 and a half hours with the essay. The math section covers Arithmetic, Algebra I and II, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Data Analysis. The main difference between the SAT and ACT is that the SAT does not contain a science section. The SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600.
The ACT, or American College Testing, begins with an English section, followed by a math, reading, and science reasoning section, and concludes with an optional essay. While the essay is optional, it is encouraged. The time length allowed is 2 hours and 55 minutes without the essay and 3 hours and 40 minutes with the essay. The reading section includes 4 reading passages. The science section tests your critical thinking skills, not your specific science knowledge. The math section covers Arithmetic, Algebra I and II, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Probability & Statistics. Unlike the SAT, a calculator is allowed on all math questions in this test. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36.
What to Bring
Prepare, and you shall succeed! Here is a list of things you should bring to the exams:
- You must bring your printed testing ticket
- You must bring photo identification
- Number 2 pencils
- A watch to pace yourself (cannot have an alarm, no Apple watches, etc.)
- A calculator – permitted in the math section of the ACT
- Snacks – there will be breaks for you to eat outside of the testing area
Which Test is Right for Me?
If you are still unsure about choosing the right test for you, it may be best to take both and see which one you score highest on. Check both the official ACT and SAT websites for important dates and deadlines. Visit our Resources page to take a free practice test and find free practice courses for both the ACT and the SAT.