The Difference Between the ACT and SAT
Many students and their parents aren't clear about the difference between the ACT and SAT, the two major college entrance examinations. The article below explains the difference in the two tests and answers some frequently asked questions about the ACT in particular.
FAQ About the ACT
Many future college students understand they will need to take the ACT to gain admission to college but are left with many questions about the ACT.
One of the top questions is about the difference between the ACT and SAT. The ACT is an achievement test that measures what a student has learned in school. The SAT is an aptitude test that tests reasoning and verbal abilities. The ACT has up to 5 components including English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test. The SAT has three components: Verbal, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test.
Many students also want to know when they should take the ACT. Students should test at least two months ahead of the application deadlines of all the colleges and scholarship agencies where they intend to apply. It typically takes four to eight weeks after a test date to receive score reports. However, there are advantages to testing earlier (as much as one year earlier, such as during the junior year in high school). This can allow retesting if results are lower than necessary or performance can be improved. It will also allow time for further study and preparation if necessary to raise scores. Another advantage to earlier testing is that colleges and scholarship programs will have access to your interests and scores in time to contact you early on about admissions, course placement, scholarships, and special programs.
Future college applicants frequently question whether or not it is to their advantage to retake the ACT. The answer to this question varies upon circumstances and individuals. Obviously if outside factors, such as illness or personal problems, were a distraction or problem on the test date then retesting after these have been resolved can be beneficial. Similarly, if additional study or practice is expected to raise scores then retesting can also be a good idea. ACT research shows that of the students who took the ACT more than once 55% increased their Composite score; however 23% decreased their Composite score. So obviously simply retesting is a bit of a gamble.
Once the actual test is over then most students want to know when they can view their scores. ACT scores can be viewed online. During the early viewing period, normally for about two weeks after scores are first available to view, an $8 fee will apply. The official score report will arrive by mail.
Once students have their scores in hand, their question is what does the score mean. The highest possible ACT score is 36. The required ACT score for admission will vary from college to college as well as among individual school programs. If you are not sure which college you intend to apply then it might be useful to look at national rankings for your score. For example, the national rank for a Composite score of 22 is 64. This means 64 percent of recent high school graduates who took the ACT Assessment achieved a Composite score of 22 or below. However, only 99 percent achieved 32 or higher. The ACT organization offers a complete ranking chart on its web site to help you determine how your score ranks.
Taking the ACT and properly utilizing your ACT score is a major step toward achieving your future goals and dreams. Being informed about the ACT can help you achieve those goals and reach your dreams.