By Shajid Merchant
Admission officers at North American Universities determine college readiness with the help of standardised tests like the ACT or the SAT scores. The ACT is scored out of 36, whereas the New SAT is scored out of 1600. These tests help admission officers measure quantitative skills, understanding of some subject areas, writing and reading skills. If you want to get admission in your dream university, you need a high test-score, for which you need to take the right test.
Neither The ACT nor the New SAT is harder or easier when compared to each other. I have observed that there are some students who are made for The ACT and some are made for The SAT. Therefore, my first advice to students is to find out which test they should be taking. Before you start preparing for these tests, take a diagnostic test with an expert, who can help you predict your score and advise which test suits you best.
There is no point in taking both the tests, as they show the same thing to an admission officer. Whether you get 36 on The ACT or 1600 on The New SAT, it means the same to an admission officer. However, in preparing for both the tests, you will surely lose out on precious time. Start with the right test and the journey will be easy. Let us look at how similar or different these exams are.
The ACT comprises of four tests: Reading, English, Math and Science. Whereas, The New SAT comprises of three sections: Reading, Writing and Language test and Math.
In terms of the time duration, both tests are more or less the same. The ACT is a 2 hours 55 minutes exam with a 40 minutes optional essay. The New SAT is a 3 hours test with a ‘50 minutes essay’ which is optional. Though, it is optional to take the essay section, I usually advise students to take it. The New SAT, gives more time per question – 70 seconds per question, – whereas The ACT gives 49 seconds per question. However, the questions tend to be harder on The New SAT compared to The ACT.
The ACT science section is not at all difficult to master, and has nothing to do with science. With The New SAT, there is no way you can escape science completely, as there are science questions in each of its three sections. In the same way, the no-calculator section in the New SAT, should not scare students away, as calculation without calculator can also be mastered. Both tests do not have negative marking. The ACT never had, the old SAT had, but the new SAT does not.
Also, if you are bad with mental mathematics, then The ACT is a test for you. The ACT needs you to be calm. If you can manage this with extensive practice, in a test environment, like an exam hall, where tests are timed properly and breaks administered, then you can easily get over the time limit constraint.
To conclude, it is not important which test you take, but it is extremely important that you take the test meant for you. Take expert advice, before you select the right test. Remember, a university admission officer wants to see a lot more on your application, not just your grades and standardized test scores. Make the right choice of trainers who can help you and guide you and take you through these tests successfully.
About the Author
Shajid Merchant has spent over fifteen years teaching Mathematics, Economics and Business Management to students learning the IB, A levels and IGCSE curricula. An engineer and MBA by training and a teacher by accident, today he runs his tutoring center, Edukraft, in Mumbai. He is also the Academic Director of TLPS.