So what is the difference between the SAT and the ACT? This is the most common question asked by students and parents prior to starting the headache-inducing process of applying to college.
First, let’s start with the good news: There isn’t an admissions advantage submitting one test over the other, according to Devon Wible, Kaplan Test Prep’s executive director of SAT and ACT programs. However, there are many disparities between the two exams. We asked Wible to lead us through them.
Test length and structure: “The SAT is broken down into 10 sections ranging from 10 minutes all the way up to 25 minutes, and the ACT has four different tests, and those range from 30 minutes to 60 minutes,” Wible says. “So the SAT is a series of small sprints, whereas the ACT requires a little more endurance.” Science section The ACT has a science section, which causes many students to recoil out of intimidation. “A lot of students get really nervous that they have to have a biology, chemistry or physics background, and that’s not exactly true,” Wible notes. “You don’t have to be a science expert to do well.”
Prose or not: The ACT has an optional essay. “We like to see students push themselves and take that part of the test,” Wible says. “It’s better to take it, and then you can apply to schools that require the essay.”
Have a strategy: When you’re taking the current SAT, if you answered incorrectly, you lose a quarter point. It’s important to know when to leave a question blank and when to guess. “If you can eliminate one answer choice, guessing is a good thing to do,” Wible says. “On the ACT, there is no wrong answer penalty.”
Changes are coming: The SAT, as many of you have heard/panicked about, is undergoing some serious changes in 2016. “The college board is looking to make sure that the exam is a true representation of how students will succeed in college and career,” Wible says. “Between the SAT and ACT, we are seeing more students gravitating toward the ACT, so the SAT is pushing to make sure their test is updated to curriculum changes made in the high schools and to compete with the ACT.”
The new version of the SAT will debut in March 2016.