We are often asked this question by students and parents. In India, test scores are very important since admissions for undergraduate programs completely depend on them. However in the U.S, test scores though important are not the sole deciding factor for admissions.
SAT ( Scholastic Aptitude Test) and ACT (American College Testing) are standardized tests conducted to ascertain college readiness of high school students, award admissions and merit based scholarships. Either of these tests can be taken by a student. Universities do not have any preference between SAT or ACT. Both tests measure similar abilities, but they are not the same.
- ACT is an achievement test. It mainly tests the student on the knowledge they have gained in school. SAT is an aptitude test. It tests the reasoning, verbal and mathematical abilities of a student.
- ACT has five components: English, Math, Reading, Science and optional Writing test. SAT has only three components: Critical Reading, Mathematics and a required Writing test.
- ACT has a science test which is not offered by SAT. Hence students who are strong in science would benefit by taking ACT instead of SAT.
- ACT has more direct questions but less time to answer each question. Whereas SAT has less questions to answer but the questions are more in-depth.
- ACT allows the use of calculator for whole Math section, whereas SAT has some section which does not allow its use. ACT Math section has more geometry questions compared to SAT. Formulas have to be memorized for ACT while not so for SAT.
- Math accounts for one fourth of the total score in ACT, whereas it is half of the total score in SAT. So if math is not your strong point, you should go for ACT and not SAT.
- For students who work well despite time crunch ACT is a good option, while for students who like to solve with some time on hand, SAT is a good format to go for.
Both these tests have Essays optional. To know which test is best for you, you should take practice tests offered by respective testing organizations. For more information on practice tests visit www.act.org and www.collegeboard/SAT . Do not think of taking both ACT and SAT since their formats are very different and only one of the scores ACT/SAT can be sent along with the application. So it is encouraged to choose one test based on your personality and focus on performing well in that test.