Tag Archives: college admission

ACT vs. SAT: Which Test Should You Take?

Standardized testing remains a key part of the college admissions process. Many students and parents begin their admissions journey by comparing the SAT and the ACT. One of the most commonly asked questions for Insight Counselors is “which test is easier/better?”

The SAT and the ACT generally cover the same topics. Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions decisions and awarding merit-based scholarships. Most colleges do not have a preference for which standardized test scores are submitted. Neither the SAT nor the ACT is harder than the other. The deciding factor is often your preference.

Before you dive in and pick one test over the other because all your friends are doing it, here is our detailed breakdown of both standardized tests. 

 

Insights into the ACT and the SAT

 

SAT

ACT

Purpose

 

Colleges use the SAT test scores for  admissions consideration, merit-based scholarships, and sometimes placement purposes

 

Colleges use the ACT test scores for  admissions consideration, merit-based scholarships, and sometimes placement purposes
Test Structure

Reading

Writing & Language 

Math (No-calculator section)

Math (Calculator allowed sections)

 

English

Math

Reading

Science

Essay (optional)

 

Length 3 hours

 

2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)

3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)

 

Test Breakdown

 

Reading

 – 52 questions, 65 minutes
 – 5 passages or pairs of passages (literature, historical documents, social sciences, and natural sciences)

Writing & Language

 – 44 questions, 35 minutes
 – Focus on grammar, vocabulary in contexts, writing and editing skills

Math (no-calculator)

 – 20 questions, 25 minutes
 – Topics cover Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Data Analysis

Math (calculator allowed)

 – 38 questions, 55 minutes
 – Same topics as no-calculator sections

 

English

 – 75 questions, 45 minutes
 – Focus on grammar, editing skills, and summarization

Math

 – 60 questions, 60 minutes
 – Topics cover Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Statistics

Reading

 – 40 questions, 35 minutes
 – 5 passages (humanities, social science, natural sciences, and literature)

Science

 – 40 questions, 35 minutes
 – Testing your critical thinking skills and ability to interpret data (NOT specific science knowledge)

 

Essay

 

None

 

 

40-minute optional essay testing your abilities to evaluate and analyze issues

 

Test Score System

 

The SAT test is scored on a scale of 400 – 1600

 

The ACT test is scored on a scale of 1 – 36
Test Dates

 

The SAT is typically offered on a Saturday in these months: March, May, June, August, October, November, and December

 

The ACT test is typically scheduled on a Saturday in these months: February, April, June, July, September, October, and December

 

Which should you focus on, the ACT or the SAT?

In our previous article, “Should You Be Taking Both the ACT and the SAT?”, Insight Senior College Admissions Counselor Zach Pava listed these three criteria:

Which test are you most comfortable with? 

Which test is the best fit from a timing perspective?

Which test can you score better on?

He also analyzed a few differences between the two standardized tests (summarized below)

 – The ACT tends to be more straightforward in its questions and presentation of material.

 – If you’re a student who is generally science-focused, and you enjoy reading, graphs, & data, the ACT may be a good fit for you.

 – The SAT allows students more time to spend on each question and therefore presents fewer timing challenges than the ACT. If you find time management to be a big obstacle, then you may want to consider the SAT.

 – The SAT contains one Math section in which no calculator is allowed. If you are not very confident with your computational skills, this may also be a point for consideration.

Compare your scores – Click here for the ACT – SAT Score Conversion Table.

However, the only way you would know for sure which test is more suitable for you is through experience. At Insight, we strongly encourage students who have not tried either test to take both for practice before making a decision. Doing this will expose you to the style and structure of both exams, and then we can establish which test you are more comfortable with in terms of content and timing, and ultimately which test youre likely to score better on.  From there, we can plan for when to take the exam, which is important because the SAT and ACT are offered on different dates and in some cases, different months throughout the year. We also want to establish a goal score for each student, as well as an end date when we want students to be finished with testing altogetherIdeally, you should be done before the start of your senior year, because once senior fall starts, your college applications truly will become a full-time class away from school, and you don’t want to have to give up valuable weekends preparing for these standardized tests.

 

Want to know which tests you should take? Contact us and schedule your full-length SAT and ACT practice tests today and see your score analysis!

 

Curious whether you should opt for test-optional? Check out our article: To Test, Or Not To Test? and see if your top choice colleges are in our List of Test Optional Colleges 2022 and Beyond

GPA Test Prep College Admissions

Top 3 Tips to Help You Start to Prepare for College Admissions

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes to every aspect of our lives, from how we socialize to how we learn, and of course, to how we need to prepare for college admissions. If you are still unsure about which path to take on your college admissions journey, don’t worry – you’re not the only one.

 

While we don’t have the superpower to predict the future, Team Insight has been keeping a close monitor on the latest college admissions news and making projections that can help keep your options open as we gear up for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.

 

Now, let’s dive in!

 

Insight Advice #1: Provide Positive Data (as much as you can).

 

A solid GPA, a progressively challenging curriculum, and well-written college essays – all of these are considered positive data about yourself. College admissions offices want to see that you can handle the academic work, but they also want to get to know you. What are your values? How do you spend your spare time? What are you devoting your time to during the summer?

 

In addition to GPA, academic profile, college essays, extracurricular activities, and awards, another positive data you can provide on your college application is test scores. A strong ACT or SAT score adds value to your college application, even for test-optional schools. In 2021, more than half of the applicants chose to submit their test scores. From the data, those who included their test scores have a higher chance of acceptance. Approximately 60% of the students who applied for Rice University submit a test score. Of the students accepted by Rice University, 80% submitted an SAT or an ACT score.

 

Insight Advice #2: Stay Informed. Prepare Ahead.

 

While we are uncertain whether test-optional admissions policies will continue, what you can do is research thoroughly into the school of your choice. Stay informed about their testing policies. Check the admissions website and their emails to see if there are any changes in test-optional policies. Most importantly, don’t wait till the last minute! It takes time to prepare for the ACT or the SAT, so plan enough time for test prep.

 

Read more: How to approach standardized testing this summer

 

At Insight, we use the term “relative to your peers” as a guide. What does it mean? In the case of testing, if your friends are planning on taking the SAT or ACT in the fall, it may be a good idea for you to take the test, too. When the admissions office evaluates your college application, they are comparing you to those similar to you, such as your high school’s graduating class. In addition, if you are applying to a competitive school or program that may have many applicants with test scores, you should also prepare for the ACT/SAT.

 

Need help improving your SAT test scores? CLICK HERE to see our summer programs

Taking the ACT instead? CHECK OUT our ACT summer boot camps

 

Insight Advice #3: Research. Research. Research.

 

The biggest 2021 college admissions trend we’ve noticed at Insight is the rise of virtual sessions. Learning about your potential school is now as easy as tapping a few keys. Attend virtual college tours. Ask your questions at virtual info sessions. Use different websites to gather information about a school of your choice. At Insight, our counselors guide students to conduct college research starting in May or earlier, and we continuously revise their list with them.

 

Read more: How to conduct virtual college visits?

 

Another trend that has been accelerated during this time is more students are applying to selective schools, which leads to decreasing acceptance rates. For example, the acceptance rate at the University of Pennsylvania in the 90s was 39%; the acceptance rate in 2021 for UPenn was 9.9%. So be practical when building your college list. Remember, every college on your list, even your safety school needs to be a school you can see yourself in.

 

Read more: Why is it important to find your Best-Fit college?

 

Concluding Thoughts

 

Even if your top schools remain test-optional, remember that test scores may still be required for scholarships or other funding opportunities. During transitions like this, you want to remain flexible and keep your options open. This may mean spending part of your summer doing test prep, but the upside is that you will not be scrambling to take the SAT or ACT at the last minute. Keeping your options open may also mean joining a virtual tour of a college you have not heard of, but you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find. As always, we are here for you! Reach out if you have any questions!

Top 3 Tips to Help You Prepare for College Admissions

 

 

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