Prospective college students are likely to be familiar with the terms SAT and ACT. Both of these tests are standardized examinations developed to measure a student’s preparedness for college level courses. However, you may be wondering what the difference is between these two tests, and whether or not you should spend your time and money taking both.
The SAT is a reasoning test developed and scored by ETS (Educational Testing Service). Administered by the College Board, a non-profit organization that assists prospective college applicants with information regarding college admissions requirements and other college-related resources, the SAT includes sections testing students on Mathematics, Reading, and Writing skills. Coastal colleges are most known for their acceptance and/or requirement of SAT test scores. Although the SAT has been around for several decades, the test has undergone many changes in its name, format, and scoring scale. Today, each test section is scored on a scale from 200-800 points; therefore, the lowest possible score is 600 and the highest possible score is 2400.
In the Midwest and Southern states, however, the ACT Test is much more popular. While the ACT examination is similar to the SAT, using standardized multiple choice questions to test students’ skills in Math, Reading, and Writing; the ACT also includes a Scientific Reasoning section. Unlike the SAT, however, the ACT offers students only one score, from 1 to 36.
While many schools only require one score, either an ACT score or an SAT score, students are often advised to take both exams. In some cases, certain colleges or universities will accept only one test or the other, but not both. In these cases, students who have taken both exams can often hold an advantage by applying to colleges who require the test on which you scored higher.
In addition, some students simply prefer one test over another based on common or past questions. Some students prefer the grade scale on one over the other. Regardless, these small preferences could potentially increase your score, particularly if you feel more comfortable taking one test over another. Taking both tests offers college admissions officers a chance to evaluate their own discrepancies with the tests, or (particularly if you receive similar scores on both tests), your scores could also prove your stability and consistency as a student.
Although both tests were created in an attempt to standardize the materials presented to college admissions counsels in order to make a decision about whether or not a student from various regions across the nation, and the world, should be accepted into their particular institution; standardized tests have faced severe criticism within the educational community despite the initial hope that standardized tests such as the SAT and the ACT would eliminate biases between people of different demographic classes including different socio-economic or ethnic backgrounds. Unfortunately, not all students felt that the SAT’s questions were unbiased in terms of socio-economic class. Some of the students from lower income brackets were found to omit words strongly associated with the upper classes. Veranda, for example, is much more likely to be included in a higher income student’s lexicon.
Nevertheless, colleges across the United States still often include SAT, ACT, or both scores alongside your application. Diversify your portfolio by taking both tests, or show the admissions officers your consistency. In either case, taking both tests will undeniably give you an advantage over other students.