SAT, ACT, or Both?


  Yes, the SAT changed in 2016.  Regarding the Verbal portion (as opposed to the Math portion), it focuses more on “critical thinking,” unlike the past SAT exams, which were more focused on memorizing vocabulary and answering detailed grammar/syntax questions.  The new SAT is now 1600 points instead of 2400.  According to the College Board, a “good” score is 1200.  While the essay is no longer mandatory, those who are applying to upper tier colleges will be wise to take it and to do very well.

  It’s important to understand the differences between the SAT and the ACT in order to determine which test is best.  Some students decide to take both to see how well they do and then make the decision about what they want to submit to colleges.  There is no right or wrong decision, just a personal preference based on individual skills and strengths.  Most schools today accept both.

  The SAT still focuses on aptitude and reasoning along with critical thinking. The ACT measures critical thinking.

  The SAT focuses on English and Math.  The ACT focuses on English, Math and Science.


New SAT Structure:
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Math

65-minute Reading section
35-minute Writing and Language section

52 Questions (Reading)
44 Questions (Writing and Language)

Score Range 200-800  

Go to The College Board website: for a thorough description of the SAT.


  Scores: Raw scores between 1 and 36 using a metric, then there are seven sub scores (Usage/Mechanics, Rhetorical Skills, etc.)  The Composite Score is the average of the four subject area test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or more are rounded up.

  ACT results are accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the U.S.  According to several high school counselors I’ve spoken with, a high score on the ACT (32 or higher) eliminates the need for taking the SAT.

  The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a short break (or just over four hours if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing). Actual testing time is 2 hours and 55 minutes (plus 30 minutes if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing).

  The ACT is administered on six test dates within the United States, U.S. territories, Puerto Rico, and Canada—September, October, December, February, April, and June. In other locations, the ACT is administered on all of the above dates except September, and the ACT Plus Writing is not available on the February test date.


  The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities.

  The ACT has up to 5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test. The SAT has only 3 components: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and  an optional Writing Test.

  The ACT continues to offer its well-established test, plus an optional writing test. You take the ACT Writing Test only if required by the college(s) you’re applying to. There are several college preparatory books available that will profile the individual schools and their requirements.

  The ACT has no penalty for guessing. It is scored based on the number of correct answers.  The ACT also has an Interest Inventory that allows students to evaluate their interests in various career options.




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