The SAT is college admission test that lets you show colleges what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge. It tests your knowledge of critical reading, writing and math.
Note: Students who are on free or reduced lunch are eligible for up to two SAT exam fee waivers (plus one SAT Subject test fee waiver - see below). Eligible students should see their counselor for a fee waiver PRIOR to registering for the exam.
The ACT is a college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in English, math, reading and science. A writing section is optional. The ACT is accepted in lieu of the SAT’s at virtually all colleges for admissions purposes.
Note: Students who are on free or reduced lunch are eligible for up to two ACT exam fee waivers. Eligible students should see their counselor for a fee waiver PRIOR to registering for the exam.
Why should students take the ACT or SAT?
Four-year colleges and universities use these tests to determine applicants’ academic achievement and potential. As part of their admissions requirements, some colleges require applicants to have earned certain minimum test scores. Other colleges use test scores as indicators of academic ability when students’ grades are not high enough to meet admissions standards. ACT and SAT test scores also serve as criteria for numerous financial awards.
How do I know if I should take the ACT or the SAT?
Some colleges prefer one or the other exam; however, most colleges accept either. Students should check with each school individually to see if they have a preference. Students who haven’t yet decided on a specific college may want to take both exams. To see which test you did best on, see the conversion chart.
If the college accepts both exams, students should choose the one that will most favorably reflect their abilities. The chart below illustrates the major differences.
|content-based test||Type of Test||content-based test|
|Reading: 1, 65-min section; Math: 1, 25-min section (no calculator) & 1, 55-min section (w/ calculator); Writing & Langauge: 1, 35-min section; Essay: 1, 50-min section (optional)||Test Format||English: 1, 45-min section; Math: 1, 60-min section; Reading: 1, 35-min section; Science: 1, 35-min section; Writing: 1, 40-min essay (optional)|
|reading, relevant words in context, math, grammar & usage, analytical writing (optional)||Content Covered||grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional)|
|questions are evidence and context-based in an effort to focus on real-world situations and multi-step problem-solving||Test Style||straightforward, questions may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher|
|Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing are each scored on a scale of 200-800. Composite SAT score is the sum of the two section scores and ranged from 400-1600.||Scoring||English, Math, Reading, and Science scores will each range between 1-36. Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges between 1-36|
|no – you do not lose points for incorrect answers||Penalty for Wrong Answers?||no – you do not lose points for incorrect answers|
|yes – you can choose which set(s) of SAT scores to submit to colleges||Score Choice?||yes – you can choose which set(s) of ACT scores to submit to colleges|
|questions increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section (except reading passage questions, which progress chronologically through the passage)||Difficulty Levels||difficulty level of the questions is random|
|arithmetic, problem-solving & data analysis, heart of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry; formulas provided.||Math Levels||arithmetic, algebra I and II, functions, geometry, trigonometry; no formulas are provided|
|with private schools and schools on the east and west coasts; however, every four-year college in the US accepts SAT scores||Tends to be more popular?||with public schools and schools in the Midwest and south; however, every four-year college in the US accepts ACT scores|
|seven times per year: January, March or April, May, June, October, November, December||Offered when?||six times per year: February, April, June, September, October, December (note that some states offer the ACT as part of their state testing requirements; these tests are not administered on the national test dates)|
|typically about four weeks before the test date||Registration deadline?||typically about five to six weeks before the test date|