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The Difference Between ACT and SAT

All current and former college bound students can relate that the words "Standardized Testing" can bring even bigger feelings of nervousness and apprehension than a doctors visit. These two words are the ultimate determinant for college bound students regarding where and if they will attend a university, and whether or not they will be qualified for specific scholarships their college of interest requires. Yes, the ACT (American College Test) and SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test), tests various curricula and are a very clear indicator for post-secondary success. The question of course, isn't always how to master these test, but which one to take? Each comprehensive exam typically lasts around four hours but vary in content that simply boggles some students when preparation time nears. More extensive research needs to be done, set types of questions need to be selected, and universities nationwide should only accept results from one test, a test combining elements of both the ACT and SAT, testing both prior knowledge and problem solving skills.

As already mentioned the ACT and SAT has various similarities and differences. The staggering differences in the test often are the determinant of which test will be accepted at a particular university and bring up many disputes to why two test are administered. It is argued by some that a national test be developed that has a set scoring system and tests students on their problem solving skills, recollection of mathematical and scientific formulas, the recollection of fundamentals of the English language, and the ability to write a short essay in an allotted time frame. As proved by students who score high on the ACT and drastically lower on the SAT, one national test needs to be created to ensure fairness for all college applicants in regards to placement, acceptance, and scholarships.

SAT - Scholastic Aptitude Test ACT - American College Test

Test of Critical Reading, Math and

      Writing skills


Test of English, Math, Reading and 

      Science Reasoning


Scores range from 200-800 on each test

      with a combined score of 600-2400


Scores Range from 1-36 on each test with

      an average (composite) of 1-36


Contains 3 English sections 3 Math


Takes 3 hours and 45 minutes

Basic Test takes 3 hours; with the optional

      writing assessment 3 1/2 hours


Cost is $41.50*

Basic Fee is $28.00*; with the optional

      writing assessment it is $42.00*

Register online at Register online at

Local test sites and their codes are:

             Muncie Central H.S. = 15-590

                   Yorktown H.S. = 15-585

                       Delta H.S. = 15-890



Local test sites and their codes are:

            Ball State University = 011760

               Muncie Southside = 198900    

                 Muncie Central = 175170


After completing the standardized testing process, students develop their own theories of the test they just took. Students who took both the ACT and SAT often compare the two. Chad Blackmon, a freshman at the University of Louisville, provided the following insight on taking both tests : "I think the ACT really tests what you know better than the SAT because the SAT is a test that has to be done that way and is not really that much based on intelligence." Chad also says, "ACT also covers more of what you are taught because of its wider range of areas where as if you are good in English and Math and nothing else, you might like the SAT for the lack of the Reading and Science parts." Another student, Daniel Beck, freshman at Vanderbilt University, and Valedictorian of Bishop Brossart High School, provides the following analysis in comparing and contrasting the ACT and SAT: "In my opinion, the SAT is a lot simpler because it tests only verbal and math skills. So, there are less particular skills to master. The ACT on the other hand gives a more comprehensive overview of necessary information that should be learned in high school. Though, I'd rather take the SAT, not only because the majority of colleges require it, but because it involves less studying for facts. It mostly is a test of your mathematical and linguistic reasoning abilities. Beck also comments on the importance of both tests and why the SAT is better for testing general intelligence in the following quote, "Therefore, I believe it more accurately reflects an ability to learn, adapt, and succeed in a college atmosphere where new subjects are taught. On the other hand, The ACT is relevant because it more aptly tests for a strong base of learning, which is necessary for continued studies. Yet, I still believe it does not do as well of a job in testing general intelligence as the SAT does." Beck scored a composite score of 35 on the ACT and 1550 on the SAT making his opinions very reliable in determining which test better accurately tests a students academic knowledge and abilities.

While each of the aforementioned students showed a bias towards the SAT, it is believed that most students and schools of lesser qualifications accept the ACT because it does not penalize students for making wrong answers. This argument on which test should be administered at which school makes people wonder how a new national test should be set-up that would appeal to students of all academic levels.

While the ACT and SAT come much too greatly to the chagrin of millions of students nationwide, standardized testing on the national level is essential in determining who meets the qualifications for post-secondary studies. Each test has its own elements and a variety of topics. After having a general sense of what each test includes of, I think anyone can understand the case that a new test needs to be adopted that takes qualities from the ACT and SAT. A new test would not only better test students in a vast array of studies: writing, knowledge of math and English fundamentals, ability to recall information, but it would end previous arguments from studies that one test was easier than the other. While some may argue that the National Merit test could be a good determinant in who qualifies for college I feel that if one test of SAT and ACT qualities is administered, it would end all roots of comparison, and colleges could report their acceptance score much more simpler than having to prefer a test and expect a student to take it. In the future one standardized test will make things much easier, but for now as current tests are expanding with writing portions, we will continue to have college-bound students remain confused on which test they should be taking and what to exactly study for to attain their ultimate goal: acceptance into their desired university, as well as scholarship awards and good class placement.

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