The ACT or the SAT?

As much of a pain standardized tests are, it’s one of those things in life that you have to take because, well, they set a standard. While they may not show colleges your level of determination or your work ethics, the scores show what you’re capable of. And since people prefer numbers over detailed explanations of how good of a student you are, you’re going to be stuck in a room for 5 hours filling in bubbles.

When it comes to standardized tests, you who have two options to choose from, both equally acceptable from any university you wish to apply for. Your choice only depends on your preference: the SAT or the ACT. So what’s the difference?

“I SAT on the question” The SAT allows you to skip answers without it affecting your overall score. On the other hand though, if you answer a question incorrectly, you lose points for it, so it would be wise to focus your time on questions you know you can answer and leave the more difficult ones alone. Your final score is measured through a statistical process called ‘equating’; fortunately, though, it isn’t dependent on how well others have done on the test, so you don’t have to worry about getting a bad score just because someone else is a better test taker than you. The SAT is split into three sections with scores from each section being from a range of 200-800: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. There’s also an essay, but that isn’t factored into the test score.

“I ACT on the question” The ACT acts much like a normal test. Don’t know the answer to that question? Save it for later. Still don’t know it? Then guess. You’re not penalized for guessing, but you of course lose points for not answering a question, same as if you get it wrong; so you want to be sure to bubble in everything before your time is up. The ACT is split up into four sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science (or Math II. :P). Your score from each section gets averaged out and place on a scale ranging from 1 to 36. It’s a simpler test, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

So how do you prepare for them? Both the SAT and ACT offer resources on their respective websites to help prepare you for their tests. I would recommend either buying the book for the test you plan to take or taking the online course that they offer (which you would also have to purchase, so take your pick).  Not only will it help you improve on what you already know and give you an idea as to what the test will expect of you, it will also point out areas that you’re lacking in. So if you’re not sure how good you are at math, taking the prep course is a good way to find out.