The Difference Between the SAT and ACT

Note: I will be conducting my quarterly college workshops through the University of California, San Diego Extension on Sept. 22 and 29. Please scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more. Lynn O.

When deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT test keep this in mind: the ACT AND SAT require different kinds of skills.

Some teens can significantly increase their scores just by picking the right standardized test to take.

Here are reasons why the ACT or SAT might be better than the other:

Teens who do well on the ACT tend to share these characteristics:

  • Fast reader.
  • Process information quickly.
  • Possesses strong memory.

The ACT is a more straightforward test, but it requires students to speed through the test. The ACT gives the teenagers significantly less time to answer questions than the SAT. Here’s an example:

ACT Reading Test Portion

  • Number of questions: 40
  • Time allowed: 35 minutes

SAT Reading Test Portion

  • Number of questions: 54
  • Time allowed: 70 minutes

The ACT reading section isn’t tricky and contains simple vocabulary, but the challenge is speeding through it. The ACT also tests a student’s short-term memory abilities because, unlike the SAT, it doesn’t give students the specific lines on a passage where the answer can be found.

Midnight oil burner: If a child must spend a great deal of time on homework and assignments to earn good grades, the SAT will probably be the better test.

Teens who do well on the SAT tend to share these characteristics:

  • Possesses strong vocabulary.
  • Avid reader.
  • Like test-taking strategies.
  • Enjoys puzzles.

The SAT requires a strong vocabulary because it inserts words like ephemeral, churlish and phlegmatic into the sentence completion part of the test and in reading passages.

Unlike the ACT, which has simpler reading passages, the SAT reading sections are trickier, but students have a longer time to process.

Because the SAT test contains lots of  smoke screens, student who enjoy puzzles can do better. Students who aren’t as strong in grammar can also fare better on the SAT because the grammar rules that the SAT tests are easier to learn ahead of time. The ACT grammar is more difficult.

Bottom Line:

If you are struggling with the the SAT vs ACT question, take a free sample test offered through the test makers to see which is the superior test for you.

Here are other college blog posts on the SAT and ACT:

Studying for the SAT for Free

The Great ACT and SAT Test Debate

Which Test Scores to Send: SAT or ACT

Why You Can’t Take the SAT in the Summer

Learn More at Lynn’s September College Workshops

For any parents who can make it to San Diego during the last two weekends of September (Sept. 22 and Sept. 29), I will be holding my quarterly college workshops through the University of California, San Diego Extension.

Workshop No. 1: Shrinking the Cost of College (Sept. 22) shares what you need to know to make college more affordable.

Workshop No. 2: Finding the Right College Workshop (Sept. 29) focuses on how to increase your child’s chances of getting into schools, evaluating schools academically, using college rankings the right way and much more.

UCSD Extension has received tremendous feedback from participants at these college workshops, who have agreed that they are definitely worth attending. The early-bird price for the workshops is $75, which is a 25% discount off the regular price.

All workshop participants will receive an electronic copy of my 75-page workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College:  Great Ways to Reduce the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree.

You can learn more about the workshop here:  Lynn’s College Workshops.

You can sign up for one or both workshops here:  UCSD Extension.

I hope you can make one or both workshops!

Apple and orange image courtesy of Flickr user Mike Johnson –

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