Each year, high school Juniors and Seniors are faced with the decision of which standardized tests to sign up for. And with far more options than the standard SAT, it’s becoming a much more complicated decision with each generation of testers.
As the generally most widely known test, the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is accepted by nearly all colleges and universities in the U.S., and by many foreign schools. The SAT consists of 10 multiple choice sections and one essay, and is scored with a possible 2400 points. Including breaks, the test last about 4 hours. There are three sections each of writing, critical reading, and math, as well as one extra section in one of the subject areas which is not graded. The extra section is used for research purposes by the College Board. Some students take the SAT two or more times to ensure that they get the best score possible. Many colleges will ‘super score’ the SAT, looking at all of a student’s scores and taking the highest from each category to give them the best overall score.
Also a very popular test, the ACT (American College Test) is structured differently than the SAT. The ACT consists of 4 multiple choice sections in math, critical reading, writing, and science, and one optional essay. The ACT is scored with 36 possible points, and an optional writing score. With writing and breaks, the test lasts close to 3 ½ hours. The ACT is a much more time sensitive test, with less time allowed per question than on the SAT. While many students feel that the questions on the ACT are simpler than those on the SAT, they are typically much more likely to leave sections uncompleted due to time on the ACT. Many colleges will accept ACT scores in place of or in addition to SAT scores.
The SAT 2’s (Subject Tests)
SAT 2’s are concentrated, one-hour multiple choice tests offered in a variety of subjects. Most often, a school requiring Subject Tests will ask for one math or science, one English or history, and one other test of your choice. SAT 2’s are also offered in foreign languages, with ‘listening’ options available. They are typically only required by Ivy League schools and other prestigious universities, but many colleges will consider them if submitted.
Though most colleges list no preference to either test, most students still gravitate towards the SAT, which concentrates mostly on reasoning and problem solving. The ACT is a curriculum based test, and SAT 2’s are specific to their subject area. Traditionally, the ACT is much more popular in the Midwest, but has become much more popular on the coasts in recent years. While there is no official equivalent between SAT and ACT scores, an incoming Harvard freshman averages a SAT composite score between a 2080-2380 and an ACT score between a 31-35.
Constants for test day
Get to your location 20 minutes early and bring #2 lead pencils, a black or blue pen for the essay, a form of ID, and your admission ticket.
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By Sydney Sundell Follow her on Twitter @sydsundell