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ACT vs. SAT: What is the Difference Anyway?

Jenn Curtis, Guest Post


In choosing which test to submit to colleges, it is important to understand the differences between the ACT and the SAT; these differences are not only in their format, but they are also in what they test and even in who typically performs better on each.  The organization that creates the ACT is the American College Testing program, while the SAT is created by Educational Testing Services and managed by College Board.  The ACT has four sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science) along with an optional section (Writing).  The SAT, on the other hand, contains Critical Reading, Writing, and Math sections. The ACT does not have a guessing penalty; the SAT does.

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So, which test should you choose?  Research shows that the ACT tends to test academic achievement with less emphasis on vocabulary, while the SAT tests problem-solving skills.  Students with higher GPAs, females, and those whose language and vocabulary skills are lower tend to perform better on the ACT, while students with excellent problem solving skills tend to perform better on the SAT.  This is not a one-size-fits-all approach, however; instead, it is a loose guideline.  Our advice?  Take both tests; see which one you are comfortable taking, and figure out which one you score better on.  Every student is unique, an irony when it comes to a standardized-test world.  Choose the test that best reflects your abilities!

FutureWise Consulting Jenn Curtis’ passion lies in helping students navigate the often difficult transition from high school to college and in empowering them to find the motivation to reach their potential.

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