As the holiday season brings cheer, the testing season often brings dread to the juniors who are looking to take the SAT or ACT in preparation for applying to colleges next year. Not only does a student have to stress about his/her performance on the exam, but he/she also have to consider which test to take.
The SAT consists of two reading sections that allow a student to demonstrate their reading comprehension skills and understanding of English grammar. Furthermore, there is more of an emphasis on questions that require the student to use evidence from the text to support their answer to a previous question.
In addition, for math, calculator and non-calculator sections test a student’s knowledge of algebra and data interpretations, alongside some geometry and precalculus.
“I didn’t like how the SAT math section only went up to Algebra II, because by the time I took the test, I was in precalculus and had forgotten most of that content,” explained Peyton Seaman, a senior at Oakdale.
In recent years, the SAT has undergone numerous revisions, the most significant change being the switch from a 2400 scale to a 1600 scale. The rhetorical analysis previously required is now considered an optional essay. However, some colleges require the SAT essay, and for juniors who are often still searching for colleges to apply to, it would be wise to complete the essay portion.
The ACT math and English sections are similar to the SAT in terms of their content, and the essay is also optional. On the ACT math section, a student may also use their calculator for every question and it covers more geometry and trigonometry.
However, the ACT is on a 36 point scale and also consists of a science section. In this section there are seven passages, each focusing on a different topic such as biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences. In addition, it requires an interpretation of data and an understanding of proper hypotheses.
“In my opinion, the science and reading sections [of the ACT] were the hardest…the science section requires interpretations of data and graphs and gives you very little time to do so,” stated Lindsey Zarnick, a senior at Oakdale who has taken both the SAT and ACT.
In the past few years, the ACT has grown in popularity, and some states now require students to take it. Another trend demonstrates that more students are now attempting both tests to see which is the right fit for them.
For students who excel in the sciences, can memorize formulas, and aren’t troubled by time pressures, the ACT may be the best bet for them. On the other hand, for students whose strengths revolve around algebra, literary analysis, and vocabulary, they may prefer the SAT. For the students whose strengths are a mix, taking both may prove most useful.