Important Questions and Answers about College Admissions Tests—ACT and SAT
Michael K. Smith, Ph.D., TESTPREP EXPERTS
1. Will all colleges accept either the ACT or SAT?
Yes. Things have changed in the last twenty years. For decades, Eastern and Western schools only accepted the SAT and Mid-western and Southern colleges preferred the ACT. Today, nearly all colleges and universities will accept scores from the ACT or SAT. If a student submits scores on both tests, colleges tend to take the highest scores.
2. Which is the easier test—the ACT or the SAT?
Neither one. Both tests are hard. They’re just hard in different ways. For instance, the ACT Mathematics test emphasizes use of formulas from all math courses, while the SAT Mathematics test measures more problem-solving ability. The ACT Reading test assesses the ability to read very quickly and answer information questions from passages; the SAT Reading test is less rushed but requires more inferential ability. The ACT has a Science Reasoning test, while the SAT doesn’t.
3. Should students take both tests?
Yes. TESTPREP EXPERTS recommends that all students take both tests at least once. Then, if a higher score is needed, retake the test with the highest score.
4. Will scores go up every time a student takes the ACT or SAT?
No. Scores increase when students have completed test preparation activities or coursework that is crucial to skills measured by the SAT or ACT. Scores can actually decrease a second time if a student just retakes a test without preparation.
5. Do colleges and universities focus just on SAT and ACT scores for admissions and scholarships?
No. Colleges weigh a number of factors for admissions—grade point average, test scores, recommendations, extracurricular activities, sports, and other activities. However, ACT or SAT test scores are a major part of the application process and can often be weighted as highly as a student’s GPA.
6. Will it help to apply early action in the senior year?
Yes. The National Association for College Admission Counseling just released a report that shows that applying to college early in the senior year increases the chances of acceptance. Seniors are well-advised to consider early action applications.
7. What’s the best time to take the ACT or SAT?
TESTPREP EXPERTS recommends that students take the ACT and SAT no later than the spring of the junior year. Taking these tests at the end of the sophomore year or early in the junior year is advised if students have had appropriate coursework and have prepared for these examinations.
8. Will I get a higher score if I guess C?
No. The test companies are too smart for that. This is an urban myth.