5 months ago
Admissions Advice


Hello everyone! I have a question in regards to the ACT and SAT exams.

First, what is the difference between the two? Is the ACT shorter, but much more difficult than the SAT? Or vice versa?

Second, is taking one than the other more advantageous when applying for a top university such as UCLA, UPenn, JHU, etc.

Third, I have been hearing many conversations and articles of where the SAT and ACT will no longer be looked into for consideration. I do not know if this is true or not and if so, will it be in effect for class of 2022, 2023, 2024? Please let me know and anything will help! Please be honest too! :)

~ Kasian


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2 answers

5 months ago[edited]

Your 2nd question first. Yes, more admits to top schools submitted test scores this admissions cycle than not. Especially during ED, EA, SCREA. MIT and Georgetown received test scores from 90-93% of applicants. Also many Ivys including UPenn which stated 24% of its class didn't have test scores to submit.

(the caveat is Caltech and UC schools which are test blind).

The ACT is 2 hours 55 minutes, the SAT is 3 hours.

The ACT has the following sections English/Math/Reading/Science. The SAT has Reading/Writing&Language/MathNoCalculator/Math Calculator

The ACT time per section is English 45 min/Math 60 Min/Reading 35 min/Science 35 min. The SAT time per section is Reading 65 min/ Writing 35 Min/ MathNoCalc 25 Min /Math Calc 55 Min

The Number of Questions is the following

ACT - English 75 Questions/Math 60 Questions/Reading 40 Questions/Science 40 Questions, SAT - Reading 52 Questions/Writing 44 Questions/MathNo Calc 20 Questions/Math Calc 38 Questions

Score on the ACT is 1-36 (20.8 AVG) SAT 400-1600 (1051 AVG) For the ACT you get 4 individual scores like 20, 22, 26, 21 and for the SAT you get 2 individual scores 1 for MAth and 1 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing called EBRW.

Increments - ACT is scored as whole numbers 21,22,23, the SAT is a score in 10 pt increments like 500,510, 520.

Composite Scores - ACT uses a roundup and rounds down the system so if your avg score on the 4 parts is 26.25, you get docked down to a 26. However, if you score a 26.5 or 26.75 you get bumped up to a 27. The SAT has no rounding so whatever you get is your score.

Superscore -Almost every college in the US allows you to use a super score for the SAT which means you can mix and match your highest Readin or Math Scores. But some Ivys and Elites will not allow you to superscore your ACT.

Cost - ACT $55, SAT $52

One is neither easier nor more difficult than the other. However, the ACT has more questions to answer in the same amount of time. Therefore it depends on whether you like a fast-paced test or a slower-paced one. Either set of the material requires about the same amount of review. HS Students who are really good at Math might find the SAT easier on the Math Section and score a lop-sided score like 680 English 760 Math. It is rare to see SAT scores that are 780 Verbal, 650 Math than the converse. Colleges probably are most likely to approve an equally distributed score unless you are applying to a STEM program.

However, if you are more a well-rounded learner you might find the ACT more comfortable to study for.

To give yourself the best opportunity to succeed, I highly recommend taking both ACT and SAT as practice tests and see how you do. Then focus on the one that you are better suited for.

If you really care about merit scholarships, then I would stick with the Collegeboard because you can get some scholarship money and future benefits of applying to certain schools like USC that reward the best PSAT test takers with 1/2 tuition scholarships.

Good Luck

5 months ago[edited]

1. As a senior (graduating today) who moved from East Coast to the Midwest, the differences aren't super vast between the exams but there are certainly niches for both:

In general, as I've done more ACT prep in high school as that's the go-to in Wisconsin, I've actually found the SAT much easier for a few reasons:

1. Time on reading/English sections is overall a lot more generous on SAT (my weaker subject area) There's a difference of like 1min per question and 45 sec per question in some cases, which is huge if you really are on the verge of boosting scores there...

2. The math is more rudimentary and a little less abstract, whereas ACT can go off a few tangents with probability and some more advanced trig

3. The science section, though not terrible if you are great at reading graphs even if you can't balance the chemical equation for water like me sometimes (then the ACT is a plus), comes at the end and can be brutal to focus through especially when you are not familiar with the topic

Note, however, I think next year you can start doing individual subject tests for the ACT to superscore , which would make it a huge advantage versus a single sitting

On the other hand,

1. The SAT does its English/Reading passages with follow-up questions that can be annoying where you select an answer to an aformentioned question and the next problem is to select the best piece of evidence from the text to back that answer up (this is scary when you aren't sure of the prior answer)

2.I'd say the reading passages tend to be a bit more variable and a little trickier but only by a hair on the SAT

The biggest advantage you can give yourself though besides taking the test you like better, is making sure whatever your state/school does-that you take the test on the national testing day (this is a huge advantage for scoring because all kids across the country are taking it -not just smart kids that normally take August/December ones) as it will have a really nice curve that will boost your score.

Mainly, I think it comes down

The other comment you have is spot on about other schools. I think if you are not a good test taker however, you can totally (and still deservingly because the system is rigged) get away without test scores as long as you have a great GPA and maybe some good APs to back it up. But by all means, if you can get a score that beats out like 95-100% of other scorers, it is not going to hurt by all means to submit.

3. Test optional has been extended to 2023 in a lot of places I've heard so far with colleges I applied to, and those are the ones in you're ball park. I definitely think a lot of schools will consider moving away entirely from it eventually, which they should (even though it sucks for good test takers), but I don't see it happening till 2024 as the College Board and all those places need to make money still lol.

Good luck for all the places you will, I'll extra cross my fingers for you with JHU...


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