For all of the high school principals, administrators, and guidance counselors out there, you may be wondering whether you should recommend to your students that they take the new (as of last March) SAT or the ACT. Our friends at Testive, a fantastic online SAT/ACT prep company, have been considering this question as well. Find their insights below!
If you’re working with high school students who are on track to graduate in 2017 or beyond then you may well be facing the question of whether to advise them to take the new SAT or the ACT. Before offering your thoughts to students, here’s what you need to know.
What Each Test Measures
The ACT is comprised of Math, Science, English, and Reading sections, along with an optional essay. The new SAT includes evidence-based Reading & Writing, Math, and an optional essay.
The ACT Math section tests elementary and intermediate algebra, plane geometry and trigonometry, and better aligns with the Common Core. The new SAT added trigonometry, making it more similar to the ACT, but many believe that it’s slightly harder than the ACT.
The ACT includes a Science section with very dense articles and graphs that can get a little confusing. If your student is someone who needs extra time, this may be something to consider. However, don’t let it be a deal breaker for him/her. If science is a strength, getting the timing down is something that they can get better at with practice and by timing themselves on a few practice tests.
There is no Science section on the new SAT, but it does include scientific graphs throughout the test to try to simulate testing of Common Core data interpretation concepts. That is, even if science isn’t a student’s forte, know that they can’t completely escape it by opting to take the new SAT.
English, Reading & Writing
The ACT English and Reading sections are both based on essays. There are four essays in the Reading section and five in the English section. The Reading section pulls from text from real life, including academic papers from social studies, natural sciences, or humanities, as well as prose or quotes from literary fiction. It’s less civics-oriented and more academic-oriented.
On the new SAT, the Reading & Writing sections ask students to analyze historical documents, great global conversations, and speeches by presidents. This differs from the old SAT, where students had to interpret random literary passages.
For a detailed comparison on these two tests, check out the infographic below:
Advantages & Disadvantages Of Each Test
The Science section is only on the ACT, so if that is a strength that your student is trying to showcase, then that might be something to consider.
Both tests have an optional essay so that shouldn’t have a huge impact on your student’s decision.
Should Your Student Just Take Both Tests And See What Happens?
Before signing up for both tests, we recommend that students purchase the latest editions of The Official SAT Study Guide and The Real ACT. They should then take a timed, proctored practice exam from each book, and preferably under the supervision of a teacher or parent.
After taking both tests, your student should ask themselves the following questions:
- Which exam felt more intuitive?
- Which exam felt more straightforward?
- Which exam allowed him/her to most efficiently show what they are capable of to the colleges to which they intend to apply?
What matters most is to have a baseline test score, which students will come away with after taking these two practice tests. They should then reflect on why they’re getting something wrong rather than just glazing over it.
For those of you with students who insist on taking both exams, they should be advised to study for each test separately and also be sure to space them out. Trying to study for both at the same time will only lead to frustration and confusion!
No matter how your students decide to proceed, the keys to conquering either test are focus, effort, and practice, practice, practice!