ACT vs SAT: Choosing the Right Test and Everything in Between By: Sherilyn Drexler

Standardized testing. A necessary evil in every high school student’s life. Going to the test center and taking the test is the easy part- it’s all the stress and decision making that surrounds it that makes the SAT and ACT tests such a stressful time. Which test is right for your needs and strengths? How can one get the best score possible? WHY am I even doing this? The truth is that test taking is an important part of college admissions. You’ll have to put some work in deciding what test is right for you, and practicing that test until you are satisfied with your score.

So let’s jump into it. The ACT and SAT are similar tests, but have their own specialties and quirks. Mr. Brauch, who teaches math at Seton High School, explains that “the sat has four sections: English, math, reading and science, whereas the act only has 3 sections which are critical reading, math, and writing. So, the SAT is heavily language arts based and analytical in math, and the act is what you learn in your classes and the curriculum”. Basically, if your strong suit is performance in your classes and you strive for your grades, the ACT may be a better choice. On the other hand, if you feel that you have great Language Arts and critical reading skills, the SAT may be better for you. Mr. Brauch goes on to say that “ACT is the coverall because it is curriculum. If your strong suit is language arts try the SAT especially if you can do math really well. If you feel you can score better on the SAT because of Language Arts skills, you should try to take it and see how you do”.

But, maybe you don’t know for sure yet. That’s okay, most students don’t at first glance. That’s why taking practice tests, like the PSAT (practice SAT) and the practice ACT tests taken at Seton can help gauge which test is right for you, and can help you to develop essential test taking skills. They are there to gauge your apt for one test over another. Mrs. Schwartz, a guidance counselor at Seton High School, recommends that “students should take practice test for each tests and see how they do, see how they feel, if they favor one over the other, as well as look at their scores.” Every student is different and most of the time students will really never know how they will do until they have taken the actual test and reviewed their weak and strong points in each. The more you take each test, the clearer it will become to you which one is right for you and which one you perform better at.

It can be easy to become discouraged in the midst of all of this test taking and you may be left wondering why this is all relevant and what the purpose of it all is. Mrs. Schwarz explains the reasoning behind all this test taking, saying that “what you’re doing here in our high school could be very different from what a student in California is working or the way she’s being taught or how her classes are structured, but the ACT and SAT is the same from state to state to state, so for college purposes they have something that is even across all playing fields”. This means that colleges are able to look at you more objectively, because curriculums and ways of learning can be so different depending on where you live and how your school is structured. If you want to get a good score, Mrs. Schwarz also says that it is so important to “Practice, practice, practice, which is not something that anybody really enjoys doing, but if your goal is to improve your score, just like any other goal in life, practice is the way you’ll get to that goal”.

All in all, standardized testing is important and worth putting time and effort in to get a good score, but if testing just isn’t your strong suit, don’t sweat it. Mr. Brauch says test scores are, “important, but it is not the most important thing. If you have a great test scores but have a bad academic record, if you haven’t challenged yourself, the test scores won’t have as much meaning. A person who has a strong academic record, strong sores, and good extracurricular is optimal”. Mrs. Schwarz agrees, “a college looks at your transcript and the classes you took and what you scored, your activities, extracurricular activities, community service, job, community service, letters of recommendation, a lot more goes into the admissions process than just the test score”.