It's never too soon to start thinking about standardized testing. I know. I know. Summer is rapidly approaching and many of you are thinking about Prom and the end of the school year, especially if you're seniors. But if you are not a senior, standardized testing should be on your radar right now, and remain there for awhile. If you are ending your junior year, you should already have it on your calendar to peruse the common app prompts this summer (which are already announced) because you will be applying for colleges in the fall, and if you plan to do Early Action, it will be even more pressing.
You are likely already in the mindset of filling out your apps because that's become, almost, instinctual for high school juniors. While the PSAT is already banked for sophomores, you should be serious about beginning test prep this summer or in early fall. I recommend getting started ASAP because when the 2018-2019 school year begins (and it's right around the corner) test prep is going to be another thing to put on your full plate. Studies show that the better PREPared students are, the higher they score. Procrastination = Stress. Be kind to your brain.
How Do I Know (or Decide on ) Which Test to Take?
There's great news in this answer! All universities will accept either test and deciding on which one to take may be easy, depending on your strengths. While their scoring differs, both take Superscores...meaning your highest scores are taken from each time you test and composited.
Neither test penalizes for wrong answers, so you are encouraged to make educated guesses.
The SAT provides more time per section than the ACT. If you know you will need the extra time, the choice is obvious.
If you are stronger in math, you will lean toward the SAT, which has calculator and no-calculator sections, whereas the ACT allows a calculator in the entire Math section. Both tests are technically designed to solve math questions without a calculator. If you struggle in math, you will likely be more comfortable with the ACT and your trusty device.
Algebra & Geometry
Both highly emphasize algebra. ACT has a greater focus on geometry and has a slightly larger emphasis on trigonometry. ACT tests on some concepts that SAT does not: matrices, graphs of trig functions, and logarithms.
The two SAT Math subsections will provide you with a diagram containing 12 geometry formulas and three laws, so you won't need to memorize anything. Not so, for the ACT.
The ACT gives 5 possible answer choices; the SAT gives 4. If you think you will be guessing a lot on the math, the SAT gives you better odds of a correct answer.
SAT does not have a Science section, but has scientific passages, data, and charts. If your strengths are in Science or your college classes will be heavy in it, you will probably want to take the ACT. While there IS and Analysis in Science cross-test score for the SAT, it is only a subscore and most schools won't even give it a first look.
Evidence-Support Reading Questions
Evidence-support questions are a big part of SAT Reading, but do not appear on ACT Reading. They build off of previous questions, asking you to cite specific lines or paragraphs as evidence. If you like working with interrelated questions, go with the SAT. In the ACT, the Reading questions are separate from one another.
SAT Reading questions follow a chronological order. On ACT Reading, questions do not routinely follow the order of the passage contents.
Essay Optional...On Both
On the SAT, you will read and analyze a passage. Your essay will scrutinize the author's argument using evidence and reasoning, absent of giving your own opinion.
In contrast, on the ACT Writing section you'll read a short passage about an issue and then analyze the different perspectives on this issue in addition to giving your own opinion on the issue.
You need strong reading comprehension skills to dissect the strengths and weaknesses of the author's arguments on the SAT. With the ACT, you will need to effectively compare and contrast differing perspectives of an issue and provide sufficient evidence supporting your opinion.
Next ACT Test Date- June 9, 2018 & July 14, 2018
Next SAT & Subject Test Dates- May 5, 2018 (Registration is over) & June 7, 2018
Hover over the test names above to link to specifics regarding upcoming test dates.