College Admissions Expert Elizabeth Levine: ACT vs. SAT


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  • Elizabeth Levine



What is the difference between the ACT and the SAT?

I frequently get asked the question, how does the ACT exam differ from the SAT? Before I review their basic differences, it used to be that the SAT dominated in the number of students who took this exam over the number that took the ACT. For the first time this past season ACT test takers have out numbered those that have taken the SAT.

I would say, with little exception, colleges will take the scores from either the SAT or the ACT with writing. Given the news about the SAT making the essay optional beginning in 2016, the writing portion of the ACT being required by some colleges may change over time. Checking each individual college's requirements is what anyone should do to ensure they are in full compliance with what the college needs to evaluate your application.

How do the tests differ? I've outlined below the primary differences below:

ACT
+ A content-based exam/subject based exam. You will have to had learned some things in school to potentially do well on this exam. This exam rewards those who have mastered the curriculum
+ Less coach-able and more study based. You can study for the ACT from the subject matter you were taught in high school in addition to other tools that facilitate increased subject knowledge
+ Limited dependence on vocabulary and more emphasis on achievement, which favors students with more limited English proficiency
+ ACT subjects include English, Math, Reading, Science Reasoning and an optional writing section


SAT
+ A problem-solving exam. This means that you may do well on the SAT if you're a good test taker and can solve problems given new information
+ More coach-able in the short term. Problem solving strategies are necessary in the multiple choice format
+ This exam favors students who are more problem solvers and potentially academic underachievers
+ SAT subjects include Critical Reading, Math and Writing, which becomes optional Spring 2016

It will be interesting to see, beginning in 2016 with the new SAT, how the above differences will change. Now that the new SAT will no longer penalize you for selecting an incorrect answer, vocabulary that is more commonly used and the essay being optional, the two exams may become more similar than they are today.

Elizabeth Levine
Signature College Counseling is an Orange County, Hudson Valley based company
that works one on one with students and their families in navigating the admissions process so you attend the college that is right for you.
845.551.6946
Ask The College Admissions Expert a Question
www.signaturecollegecounseling.com

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