When applying to college, you are required to submit scores from either the ACT or the SAT. Schools do not have a preference which test you take and it is NOT required for students to take both. However, many students prefer to try both tests to see which test they are more comfortable with and/or do better on and then focus on taking that one a second or third time. Another way to become more familiar with both tests is to take the practice tests. There are free practice tests available online. The practice SAT is called the PSAT and is available for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. This test is offered at WKHS in October.
When you are deciding which test to take, it is best to understand the differences between the two tests. The following information pertains to the current SAT. It is important for students and parents to know that the SAT will be changing in March 2016. There is an information sheet at the bottom of this page to highlight the differences between the current SAT and the new SAT. The SAT is an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities. It covers reading, vocabulary, grammar & usage, writing, and math. The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. It is content-based and covers grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and an optional writing portion, which many schools will prefer for the student to take.
The SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes long. The ACT is 3 hours and 25 minutes long, including 30 minutes for an optional writing test.
On the SAT, 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. The question styles are identified as “tricky”; questions can be phrased in ways that make them difficult to decipher. On the ACT, questions are characterized as “straightforward”; questions may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher. The difficulty level of the questions is random on the ACT.
On the SAT, math, critical reading, and writing scores will each range between a 200-800. Total SAT score ranges between 600-2400. There is a penalty for incorrect answers on the SAT; you lose ¼ of a point for incorrect answers, except on the grid-in math questions. On the ACT, English, math, reading, and science scores will each range between 1-36. The Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges between 1-36. There is no penalty for incorrect answers on the ACT.
The SAT is offered seven times per year in January, March or April, May, June, October, November, December. The registration deadline is typically 4 weeks before the test date. Students can register for the SAT at www.collegeboard.org. The ACT is offered six times per year in February, April, June, September, October, and December. The registration deadline is typically five to six weeks before the test date. Students can register for the ACT at www.actstudent.org.
Below are some characteristics of students who tend to prefer one test over the other: