SAT and ACT: Which is the Better Test?

By Lynn O’Shaughnessy | Feb 2, 2010 | 1 Comment

  • Should your teenager take the SAT or ACT test?

Typically, students pick the test that their friends are taking. On the East and West coasts, students prefer the SAT test. In the Midwest and Rocky Mountains states, the ACT test is king. And in the South, teenagers split their allegiance between the SAT and ACT.

It’s a shame, however, that geography determines which test most students choose. Teenagers are more likely to fare better if they select the test that plays to their strengths. What many families don’t realize is that the two tests measure different skills, which can lead to very different ACT and SAT results.

Teenagers who earn high ACT scores are more likely to:

  • Possess a strong memory.
  • Be fast readers.
  • Process information swiftly.

Teenagers who earn high SAT scores are more likely to:

  • Possess a strong vocabulary.
  • Be a strong reader.
  • Enjoy test-taking strategies.

Teenagers who ace the ACT are able to speed through the test. The ACT, for instance, requires a student to answer 40 questions in the reading section in 35 minutes. In comparison, the SAT reading section seems downright leisurely. Students receive 70 minutes to answer 54 SAT reading questions.

The ACT also tests a student’s memory because, unlike the SAT, it doesn’t provide the lines in the reading passages where answers can be found.

Just looking at the ACT’s time constraints and memorization demands, you might think the SAT is the preferable test, but that won’t be the case for everyone.

Some students like the ACT because it’s more straight forward.  The ACT, for instance, doesn’t contain obscure vocabulary and the reading passages aren’t tough.  In comparison, the SAT reading section is loaded with tricky questions. Even though the SAT typically directs students to the very line in a reading passage where the answer can be found, pinpointing the correct answer can still be tortuous.

Unlike the ACT, the SAT also demands a strong vocabulary because it peppers the sentence completion section of the test and the reading passages with words like assiduous and inchoate.

Here’s the bottom line: Taking the right test could be the best way to boost your scores whether you pick the SAT or the ACT.

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