Is it better to take the SAT or the ACT?
The SAT tests aptitude in three areas of knowledge: mathematics, reading comprehension and writing & grammar. There are 10 sections to the test, three in each area of knowledge and one experimental section that could be any subject but doesn’t count toward your score. The test lasts 3 hrs and 45 minutes. A perfect score is 2400, 800 for each test, while 500 is about average. You also receive a separate score from 0-12 for the essay. Some questions (in math, sentence error, sentence improvement, and sentence completion) are arranged in order of difficulty. Because there is a penalty of ¼ point for a wrong answer, your guessing must be strategic. Most important, don’t attempt the hardest questions in math or sentence completion if you don’t expect to score over 650.
The ACT has four sections, in math, English, reading and science, plus an optional writing section. The test covers proficiency in knowledge learned in high school, rather than aptitude. Although the 30 minute writing section is optional, most guidance counselors agree it’s strongly advised to register for the test with the writing option. There is no penalty for guessing, and questions are not in order of difficulty. The test lasts 3 hours and 25 minutes.
Technically, the SAT is an aptitude test that is supposed to predict how well a person will do in the first year of college, while the ACT is a test of what students have learned in high school. My own opinion on which is better to take is that it depends on where the person wants to go to college. East or West Coast colleges frequently prefer the SAT, while Midwest and Southern schools often accept the ACT. Many colleges accept either test.
To keep your options open, you can prepare for both tests and send the better scores. Here is a site where the College Board and the ACT arrived at a concordance of their scores. No matter which test you choose to take, you need to prepare by taking practice tests and by working with a good test prep organization such as Advantage Learning.