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College Corner: SAT or ACT?

College Corner is a column about all things college, covering everything from college preparation to tips on application. A new column will be posted on the first Wednesday of the month.

CollegeCorner1
[/media-credit] College placement tests can be confusing. Academic counselor Michelle Warkentin explains the seven key differences between the SAT and the ACT in this College Corner.

It’s one of the questions I hear more than any other . . . ‘which test should I take, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Testing (ACT)?’ Since the answer differs for everyone depending on their skill set and preference, I will try my best to provide adequate information about each test.

My hope is that students and parents will have the proper tools to make their own informed decision. However, the most obvious response I give is to take both and see which one you receive a higher score on. Then take it a second time, maybe even a third time to see how much you can improve your score.

Students often surprise themselves by doing much better on one test versus the other. I know taking an additional test is the last thing many of you “testophobic” students want to hear (yes, that is a real word) but it could very well be the ticket to your dream college.

I can easily sympathize with your test-taking phobia. Sign me up for a personal interview or a 30-page essay, anything to avoid four hours of miserable answer sheet bubbling. However, when it is all said and done college testing is not as daunting of a task it is made out to be, for good or bad scores . . . life will go on.

A great place to start when deciding which test will be the best fit is The Princeton Review. According to their website, there are seven key differences between the SAT and the ACT:

1. ACT questions tend to be more straightforward
2. The SAT has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary
3. The ACT tests on more advanced math concepts
4. The ACT Writing Test is not required
5. The SAT is broken up into more sections
6. The ACT is more of a ‘big picture’ exam (e.g. If you are weak in one area but stronger in another you could still end up with a good score. The composite score is most important.)

The scoring methods for the two tests are very different. The SAT has three sections: math, critical reading, and writing. Each section is scored on a 200-800 point scale. The perfect SAT score is 2400.

I can easily sympathize with your test-taking phobia. Sign me up for a personal interview or a 30-page essay, anything to avoid four hours of miserable answer sheet bubbling. However, when it is all said and done college testing is not as daunting of a task it is made out to be, for good or bad scores . . . life will go on. — Michelle Warkentin, academic counselor

The national averages are 516 (math), 501 (critical reading) and 492 (writing). The test takes three hours and 45 minutes and costs $50. Students can sign up for the SAT at college board’s website.
In comparison, the ACT has four sections: English, reading, math and science. It also contains an optional 30-minute writing test. Each section is based on a scale of 1-36. The average of these sections is taken to find the composite score.

A perfect score on the ACT would be a 36. The national average is 21. The website to sign-up for the test is at the ACT website. It takes three hours without the writing and three and a half hours with it. The cost is $35 without the written portion and $50 with the written test.

If you are interested in learning more about either of these tests or would like information about study resources, please come talk to me. However, one of the best ways to prepare for these tests is by taking the practice tests, the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test PSAT for the SAT and the PLAN for the ACT. We offer both of them on campus.

Upcoming Dates:

The PSAT will be given in the Peoples Church Gym, at 8 a.m., Oct. 17.
The next SAT test will be administered Nov. 4; the registration deadline is Oct. 3.

The PLAN test will be given on campus in mid-November, more details to be announced. The next ACT test is Dec. 8; the registration deadline is Nov. 2.

I usually recommend that students take these tests toward the middle or end of their junior year and again at the beginning of senior year to improve their score.

Senior Reminders:

Be sure to check your college websites for application deadlines.
Many early registration deadlines are Oct. 31 or Nov. 1, however this is not the case for all colleges.

The normal registration period for most schools is Oct. 1-Nov. 30.
However, this is not the case for all colleges.

For the previous installment of College Corner, read the Sept. 5 article College Corner: Staying one step ahead of the game.

For more opinions, read the Sept. 27 article, Start Smart teaches caution, safety (VIDEO).

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