Choosing between SAT and ACT
By Leo Lam
(Head of Academics at The Edge Learning Center)
In the past few years, many schools are making the submission of SAT or ACT scores optional. However, this should not stop students from taking the test. If a student can obtain a good score on one of these two tests, it is always a bonus for the application.
The key is to get a good score. Both the ACT and SAT are ways to predict a student’s ability to do well in university, meaning that they are both just as difficult. Students shouldn’t be asking “which one is easier” as they make the choice between the two. Depending on the students’ abilities, one test may be a better fit than the other. When it’s easier for students to prepare for these tests, they will generally be able to improve on their scores faster and with less effort.
To help students make a sound choice, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine which one is a better fit.
1. Am I comfortable with reading information and working through problems quickly?
If you answer to this question is yes, ACT will be a better fit. The pace on the ACT is much quicker compared to the SAT. On the ACT, students are given about two-third of the time compared to the similar section on the SAT. This leaves little room for you to make mistakes or second-guess yourself. If you work well under pressure, and you are a meticulous person rarely committing careless mistakes, you will find that the ACT will reward you for such precision.
2. Can I understand more advanced concepts and apply the knowledge to solve more complex problems?
Being able to understand and apply advanced ideas tends to mean that SAT is the right test for you. To compensate for the quick pace, questions on the ACT tend to be more straightforward but broad. SAT, on the other hand, focuses on narrower topics but expects you to be able to understand these topics in a more in-depth way. This means that for choosing the ACT, expect to learn and know many topics, while for choosing the SAT, expect to be an expert on a smaller set of topics.
3. Do I enjoy getting hands-on with scientific experiments and finding patterns in data?
The biggest difference between the ACT and SAT is the Science section that is present in ACT but not SAT. If you have enjoyed the various scientific topics learned throughout your academic, tackling the ACT Science section should be a breeze. Even if you did not study any scientific subjects extensively prior to taking the test, you can still do well with an analytical mind. The Science section on the ACT is more about your ability to link various information together, not as much about scientific knowledge.
4. Do I prefer reading about the findings of scientific discoveries and their ramifications?
Three of the five passages on the SAT Reading section are about science, so if you prefer reading about how scientists tackle a hypothesis or verify a conjecture, you will find yourself having an easier time preparing for the SAT. While the authors of these passages will apply technical (sometimes quite advanced) terms in their writing (they are scientists themselves, after all), the focus is on the your understanding on how the authors present their views. Similar to the ACT, the purpose is not to test your scientific knowledge but using scientific background to determine your ability to follow, understand, and digest logical arguments.
Even students who have done extremely well in their classes can find these tests challenging. They key to success is to apply your own strength to maximize your score. If you are still not sure which test is better for you, try to experience them first-hand. With the right mind-set and perseverance, this is one obstacle that anyone can overcome.
Leo has 10 years of teaching experience with students from age 3 to adults. He wants his students to leave not just memorized equations or steps but also having understood the mechanics involved. Sign up for a lesson with Leo now!
About The Edge
The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which student gained acceptance to schools such as Stanford, University of Chicago, Brown, and more! Check out the rest of our latest Admissions Results!