Standardized tests are believed to be one of the most effective tools for predicting student success in college. Whether you believe that or not, it’s a fact that many colleges require either the ACT or SAT before granting you admission to their schools. An impressive score on one of these tests could also make you a more impressive candidate for scholarships, especially those based on merit and academic achievements (Many awards will include standardized test cut-offs as part of their criteria when selecting scholarship winners).
While many schools currently accept either the ACT or SAT as their standardized testing requirement, some will have a preference for one or the other based on either the material or testing style they’d like to emphasize, or, more simply, a tradition of favoring one over the other. Some students who are looking at schools that accept both tests consider taking both the ACT and the SAT, as many will do better on one of the tests. (The ACT and SAT test different skills.) Those students can then submit the higher score, increasing their chances for admittance. If you don’t mind the extra cost of taking two tests and the extra preparation involved in studying for both, it may not be a bad option. Practice tests are also available for both, so if you don’t want to commit to both, taking a practice test could be a good predictor of how well you’d do during the real ACT or SAT.
The ACT has traditionally been a more common requirement in colleges throughout the Midwest and the South. The test has four multiple-choice sections – English, reading, math and science, along with an optional writing section that is scored separately – and for students who do better applying what they already know, the ACT could be the better option. (This goes for you “book smart” learners.) If you’re considering taking the ACT in lieu of the SAT, make sure your college will accept scores from that test. Some schools, while they say they will accept ACT scores as part of your application, still want to see your SAT scores. Those ACT scores might then act as additional information about you for admissions officials. Also make sure you know whether a school requires you to complete that optional writing portion, because it may not be as optional at the school you’re planning to apply to.
The SAT has traditionally been a more common requirement in colleges on the East and West coasts. The test is composed of some multiple choice, but also includes a math section where testers must provide their answers. The sections include Writing, Critical Thinking, and Math. For students who do better with general reasoning and problem solving, the SAT could lead to a higher score over the ACT for those test-takers. The SAT is more about testing under pressure, so it could be a good option for you if you pick up and digest information quickly and easily. The scoring method used on the SAT penalizes wrong answers, so testers should make sure they make educated guesses on the multiple choice portions. Some colleges and programs may also require students to take SAT Subject Tests as part of their admission requirements in addition to the main SAT test, so make sure you know what’s expected of you before applying to a school.
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