understanding-act-sat-tests

Understanding ACT/SAT Tests: Which Should Your Child Take?

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Have you been thinking about your child’s academic future? Perhaps you know of a college or university they dream of enrolling in. You want to prepare them in advance with essential information on the ACT and the SAT as a precondition for enrollment in most of the higher education institutions across the U.S. 

If your child is nearly finishing high school, you need to understand the critical elements of each of the tests, their main differences, the reasons why they should do such tests, and most importantly, the tips and tricks for excelling at them. Luckily, we offer all of this information in a single piece of article. Yes, this article. 

What Is the ACT Test?

ACT stands for “American College Testing”. As its very name implies, it is an entrance test for admission to colleges and universities. It consists of four sections, including English, Reading, Maths, and Science, which are framed in multiple-choice questions and required to be completed within 2 hours and 55 minutes (40 additional minutes if you decide to take the writing section of the ACT).

Furthermore, the very purpose of this test is to evaluate the high school student’s readiness for college and enable them to make the right admission decisions. The highest ACT score is 36 points. 

What Is the SAT Test?

what-is-the-sat-test

SAT stands for “Scholastic Aptitude Test”. Like the ACT, this is an entrance exam accepted by most colleges and universities when making their admissions decisions. Again, similar to the ACT, the SAT is a multiple-choice test. However, compared to the ACT, this test comprises two main sections, i.e., Math and evidence-based Reading and Writing, which shall be completed within three hours. 

Its main objective is to evaluate the readiness of high school students for college. The college will review the standardized test scores of the SAT alongside the students’ high school GPA. The highest SAT score is 1,600 points. 

Why Take ACT and SAT Tests?

Firstly and most importantly, taking the ACT or the SAT is a precondition for your child’s acceptance into the college of his or her dreams. Both enjoy wide acceptance in most U.S. colleges and universities. Although some colleges and universities have left these tests optional, it is still recommended to have a great score in either one, as that will give the candidates a great competitive advantage and increase their chances of admission. 

A great score will therefore be your child’s passport to earning a scholarship and help them save thousands on tuition. Besides that, it will help them balance a lower GPA since the former is an excellent demonstration of how far they have professionally advanced throughout the years. Finally, neither the ACT nor SAT will deduct their overall score for incorrect answers, so tell them not to panic if they are unsure about specific questions. 

ACT vs. SAT: What Are the Differences?

Knowing the difference between the ACT and the SAT will facilitate your children’s choices and allow them to make well-informed decisions. 

First, ACT is distinguished by its emphasis on verbal skills, which makes native English speakers or other students with a solid English background flourish. On the other hand, those who are significantly skilled in Math usually opt for SAT. 

Further on, these two tests differ in their score conversion. While the maximum SAT score is 1,600, with the average score in 2021 in the U.S. being 1,060, ACT uses another scoring system. The maximum score in the latter is 36, with the average of 2021 in the U.S. being 20.7.

Other main differences between the two are: 

  • Time allocated per question: Less time is given in each ACT section compared to the SAT. 
  • Science section: It is included in ACT but not SAT. 
  • Use of the calculator: SAT contains a section in which the candidates are not allowed to use a calculator, whereas, in the ACT, a calculator is always allowed. 
  • Different math concepts included: The ACT contains some math concepts that SAT does not. Such concepts may include matrices, graphs, logarithmic functions, and similar. On the other hand, SAT strongly focuses on algebra and data analysis. 
  • Importance of maths in the final score of the test: In SAT, maths plays a considerable role, accounting for half of your total score, whereas, in the ACT, it accounts for one-fourth of the total score, making maths twice as important as in the SAT. 
  • Optional essay: The ACT has an optional essay that, in general, will ask the candidates to give their own opinion on the issues discussed within a passage. By contrast, SAT no longer contains an extra essay. 

Score conversion

As indicated earlier in this blog post, the score conversion differs between the ACT and the SAT. In contrast, the former utilizes a scoring with a maximum of 36 points, and the latter has a different scoring system, with the maximum points reaching 1,600. Regarding scoring conversion, that is best explained through official ACT/SAT Concordance Tables. 

Timing

Whereas the score conversion is way different between the two, timing is somewhat more similar. In SAT, candidates will have a total of three hours at their disposal for completing 154 multiple choice questions; meanwhile, in the ACT, the candidates are given 2 hours and 55 minutes, plus an extra 40 minutes if they decide to also take the written part of the test. 

In terms of validity, the SAT score has no expiration date, so it is technically valid forever, although many universities accept to take it valid for only five years. On the other hand, the validity of the ACT is five years. 

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Costs

These highly reputed tests have immense benefits and come with a cost. To take an ACT without the writing part, the candidates will need to pay a sum of $63.00, while for an ACT with writing, the fee is $88,00. Other additional costs may apply; to know exactly what and when, you can refer to Current ACT Fees and Services. On the other hand, to enter an SAT, the candidates will need to pay $60,00. The good news is that some students may be eligible for a fee waiver. Want to know more about that? Please read SAT Fee Waivers.

How Can You Be Successful on Your ACT and SAT Tests?

how-can-you-be-successful-on-your-act-and-sat-tests

You might have reasonably heard that both tests are challenging. They require a considerable amount of preparation to excel with the scores. Luckily, your children are not the first ones to do them, and there are now many pieces of advice, tips, and tricks to succeed in these tests. Read on to find out some of them: 

  • Advise them to begin by researching the critical characteristics of each of the tests to familiarize themselves with the components of each, evaluate their most vital points, and make a well-informed choice of the test they will take. 
  • Tell them to set a test date three to six months in advance.
  • If possible, help them build a preparation plan, including setting a practice schedule, choosing the practicing websites, thinking of their study habits, and setting a target score. 
  • There comes the crucial part: urge your child to practice and practice for entire months, preferably for three to six months in advance. Remember that long and consistent practice is key to any test of this kind, especially for the ACT and the SAT. 
  • On the exam day, try to remind them to manage their time wisely and, most importantly, to try their best to manage stress and be productive. 
  • Success! 

How Many Times Can the ACT and SAT Tests Be Taken?

Perhaps your child is not happy with their ACT or SAT score, and they are wondering if they still have a chance to succeed; tell them not to worry; they actually have many other opportunities to show their knowledge and get the best out of these tests. Concretely, the candidates may take the ACT 12 times, while they can take the SAT 7 times. However, is it worth taking all these attempts? Not really; with each attempt, they will have to invest a lot of time, energy, and money.

Moreover, some colleges and universities have asked their candidates to disclose their previous ACT attempts when applicable. So, we suggest trying their best to prepare well for their first, second, or third attempt. 

Conclusion

We began this article by promising that as a parent, you will get a lot of helpful information on both the ACT and the SAT, and we are strongly optimistic that we did it. In the article, you had the opportunity to learn key characteristics of the ACT and the SAT, compare and contrast the two, know the importance of these tests, and get some valuable tips for your child to succeed. 

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