Should High School Juniors Take the ACT or SAT?
Tagged: act test vs sat test
February 8, 2016 at 6:22 pm #51463
No sooner has the Super Bowl ended, even before most high school seniors have received their college admission offers, it’s time for many high school juniors to complete their college positioning by determining if they should take the ACT, the SAT, or possibly both.
The traditional “take an official practice test of each and compare the percentile scores” advice has been rendered ineffective given the new test format being rolled out next month by the College Board, which administers the SAT. So let’s break down the more complex decision future college applicants are now being forced to make.
Your goal, of course, remains the same: to find the test you will perform best on – vis-a-vis your competition.
Let’s break the comparisons down on a sectional basis.
MATH: The new SAT focuses a bit more on algebra and data analysis, while the ACT has a much stronger focus on geometry and a relatively stronger focus on trigonometry. (Although there are roughly three times as many trig questions on the ACT, these questions still only constitute roughly 5% to 10% of the total ACT math questions!)
READING: If you take the new SAT, you will need to make sure you prep to handle the evidence questions. And you will see a greater emphasis on analyzing specific points of the texts and author arguments. The ACT will include one fiction passage (the SAT reading section consists entirely of nonfiction essays), and the questions will not adhere to the same chronological order used by the SAT.
WRITING & LANGUAGE/ENGLISH: The new SAT will include some chart and graph questions and you won’t be completely spared of the challenging vocabulary. Standard English conventions such as grammar and sentence structure are also emphasized. The ACT places a bit more emphasis on punctuation and carries over the “what is the purpose of this passage” questions from the reading section – which the new SAT in March shouldn’t do.
SCIENCE: While the new SAT won’t technically include a science section, it is attempting to incorporate some of the basic skills you picked up in your high school science classes into your chart and graph questions as well as two of the reading passages. On the other hand, the ACT has a distinct section of its test dedicated to science.
OPTIONAL ESSAY: The optional essay sections are extremely similar. The new SAT allots 50 minutes and asks test takers to analyze the author’s argument. Like the AP tests administered by the same parent company, your opinion isn’t solicited. The ACT optional essay requests the analysis of three perspectives with an argument that supports your own opinion. Specific examples are necessary to score well on the ACT writing section.
In summary, the new SAT is going to be more similar to the ACT. However, even though there remains the key difference that the ACT rewards test takers who excel at working quickly, we generally recommend high school juniors take the ACT over this new SAT.
As Louis Pasteur famously stated, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” And given the breadth of preparation material available for the ACT and the fact the test will likely remain more constant over the intermediate future, why risk all the stress and anxiety that may come with being a potential guinea pig for the College Board as it potentially engages in ongoing recalibrations of its test and delays score reports as it attempts to establish reliable percentile ranges?
The ACT is offered at many locations across the country. If you’re absolutely convinced you need to take the SAT because it allows more time to complete each section, please call us at 1.800.809.0800 to see if there may be an addressable test anxiety issue. And, of course, we’re happy to talk to you about the many other admissions-related issues as well!
Best of luck with your applications!
Keep up with us on:February 8, 2016 at 8:10 pm #51466
I’m glad I found this for my niece. Thanks.March 1, 2016 at 7:16 pm #51505
Great advice. Best article I’ve found on this topic. Thanks.
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