How do the ACT and the SAT differ?
SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) helps colleges see how much students have learned to this point and how they will perform in college.
Measures: Critical reading, writing and math reasoning skills
Highest composite score: 2400
ACT (American College Testing) measures how well students have mastered their high school curriculum. It not only assesses how much they know, but how well they reason.
Measures: Content-based knowledge of English, math, reading and science reasoning
Highest composite score: 36
Which test should I take?
Talk to the college or university of your choice to see if they have a preference.
How should I prepare?
Unlike some of the tests you've taken in high school, you can't cram for the SAT and the ACT because they measure what you've learned over the course of many years. If you've been paying attention and keeping up with your schoolwork, you should have a good base of knowledge from which to work.
Essentially the best way to prepare for these tests is to practice, so you can identify what you're good at, and what areas you need to work on. Practice tests come with your registration packet and are also available online. You'll get an idea of the types of questions you'll be asked as well as how many questions you'll have to answer. Many schools even offer prep classes after school or on the weekends to help you master the art of test-taking.
Although most of the focus on SAT and ACT tests occurs during your senior year, try to take at least one of the exams during your junior year of high school, if possible. This may enable you to see what the test entails so you can prepare to retake the test. Each test can be taken multiple times to improve your score.
What should I do on test day?
1. Get plenty of rest so you're awake, alert and ready to go.
2. Eat breakfast so you have the energy and stamina to make it through the day.
3. Dress comfortably in layers so you're not too hot or cold in the testing room.
4. Come prepared so you can focus on the test and not on the fact that you forgot something. Be sure to bring:
- Your test center admission ticket
- A proper ID
- Two #2 pencils with erasers
- A watch
- An acceptable calculator
- Snacks (optional, but suggested to get you through the grueling day)
5. Answer easy questions first to build confidence and rack up more points.
6. Watch your time. Don't get hung up on a question you don't know the answer to. Relax and move on to the next question so you're sure to finish.
7. Guess smart by ruling out wrong answers and increasing the odds that you'll choose the right one.
8. Check your work if you're lucky enough to have time left over.