Which Admissions Test is Right for You?


Long before a student picks out their graduation apparel, or walks across the stage to accept their diploma, there are decisions that need to be made about how to stand out in college applications. One of those decisions, inevitably, is which college admissions test to take. Since virtually all schools accept scores from both the ACT or SAT test, is there one test that is better than the other?

Oftentimes, whether a student took the ACT or the SAT admissions depended largely on where they lived. The ACT had been the prominent test option for high school students in the Midwest and Southern regions of the nation, while the rest of the country’s students typically opted for the SAT. But times seem to be changing.

A New York Times article recently reported figures from 2012 showing more students (1,666,017) took the ACT compared to (1,664,479) who took the SAT. The same report also mentioned that many students are choosing to take both of the tests and submit their scores to prospective colleges. 8,000 of the 26,000 applicants to Princeton, for example, submitted scores from both tests (overachievers).

What’s the difference between the SAT and the ACT?

The main difference is the ACT is considered an achievement test, which tests students on the educational elements they’ve gathered throughout their time in school. The SAT, on the other hand, is considered an aptitude test which focuses on a students reasoning and testing skills.

Additional differences include the makeup of the two tests. The SAT has three main components: mathematics, critical reasoning and a writing test. The ACT consists of five components including: English, mathematics, reading, science and a writing test. The writing portion is actually optional for the ACT and is only required if the college the student is applying to requires it.

Another thing to consider when deciding which test to take is how the test is graded for missed answers. The SAT will deduct points for missed answers, while the ACT does not penalize for wrong answers or guessed answers.

Which test is right for you?

If you want to get a taste of what each test is like, there are sample tests available that students can take. Kaplan for instance has designed a 90-minute sample test that provides 10 practice questions from each section of both tests. Not only can you see what to expect from the tests, it will also enable you to choose the test that appeals to your abilities.

Which admissions test do you prefer?

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