20 Dec 2016

Should You Take the SAT or ACT?

I’m often asked whether students should take the SAT or ACT. When the old SAT was around, my answer would usually be “it depends.” The old SAT was significantly harder, and for many Thai students that don’t want to deal with the hard vocab, the ACT was a nice alternative. With the release of the new SAT, the choice doesn’t get any easier, but there is a direction I lean.


The New SAT Is Heavily “Inspired” by the ACT Test.

Everything that made the ACT Test popular is utilized by the new SAT. Gone are obscure, hard SAT words like “syrabite” and “quixotic.” The difficult Writing Section has been revamped to be passaged-based as opposed to sentence-based. The Math Section is also more straight-forward now (although a bit more difficult in my opinion). And perhaps most significant of all, there is no longer any guessing penalty on the new SAT. Thus, there is little to distinguish the new SAT from the ACT. However, if that’s the case, why take the new SAT over the ACT?


The Answer Is Time.

The new SAT allots significantly more time on its individual sections than the ACT. In taking the ACT, if you are good, you will barely finish the Reading and Writing Sections on time. You’re allowed 35 minutes on the Reading Section for 4 passages with 10 questions each. With the SAT, you’re given 65 minutes for 5 passages with a total of 52 questions. If you’re doing your math, that’s about 13 minutes per passage if you space it out evenly. In my experience, students generally have more time and feel less pressure on the SAT.


So Why Would You Take the ACT?

The ACT is suitable for certain types of students. To understand if it’s right for you, let’s look at the difference. If you’re just looking at both tests superficially, the biggest difference is that the ACT has a Science Section while the SAT has 2 Math Sections – one with a calculator and one without. If you’re not really a math person, then the SAT might not be right for you. The SAT math has a lot of words and its non-calculator section does require some brain computing power. HOWEVER, the ACT Science Section is incredibly difficult. The curve is tough so you can’t miss too many questions and students usually run out of time. But if you’re a science “enthusiast,” (you don’t even need to be a wiz), it could be worth it.

The last big difference between the two would be the Reading Sections. I mentioned the time difference above, and for the most part, you’ll feel less pressure with the SAT Reading. However, the ACT Reading questions are more straight-forward. That would have to be the case since there’s less time on the ACT. If you’re a fast reader, you could possibly have an easier time on the ACT because the questions are easier. However, for many Thai students, working with the SAT Reading is easier because there’s more time to first read and then deal with the questions.


So What Should You Choose In The End?

For most students, I recommend taking the new SAT. As of now, I do think it is less difficult than the ACT. It is easier to get a 1400 on the SAT than a 30 on the ACT (with both scores being roughly equivalent in the eyes of college admissions). Will this always be the case? I think that’s unlikely. The difficulty of the new SAT will be adjusted or the curve will change or colleges will value a higher SAT score. Any of this is possible. In the meantime, look to your heart to figure out which test is best for you (cheesy I know, so you should really just take both tests and see which you like better). Or…come talk with one of our consultants at YPrep Academy to determine which test is right for you!

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