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SAT vs ACT: What's the Difference

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The introduction of college entrance testing generated some great questions from our readers, so I will continue this discussion for the next couple of weeks.

What are the differences between the ACT and SAT? There are only a few, but they are significant.

•The first is in how the tests are scored. There is a penalty on the SAT for a wrong answer, so students should not blithely guess on this test. If they can narrow down your answer to just two choices, it is worth the gamble. But if they are clueless, random guesses are not a good idea.

•The ACT includes a section of passages that deal with science; the SAT does not. It is still a reading test and the information a student needs to answer the questions is contained in the passages. But the topic is science-based, so if your student has a particular phobia about or dislike of science, the passages may be slightly off-putting.The

•SAT has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary. If you read a lot and love words, you will enjoy the SAT. If your vocabulary is weak, the ACT may be a better choice.

•The ACT math goes into geometry, whereas the SAT does not.

In my experience, most students will tell you the ACT is easier than the SAT. That is because the questions on the ACT are usually a little more straightforward. You may need to spend more time on the SAT figuring out what you’re being asked before you can answer the problem or write the essay. Most colleges accept both tests, although you should always check their entrance requirements to be sure. In general, these tests are offered in alternate months, so it is possible to take them both. Have your student go to each website and complete some of their practice questions. This will help them decide which is the best choice for them.