ACT Or SAT? Five Tips to Pick the Right College Entrance Exam

The SAT and ACT are both respected, nationally-recognized tests. Historically, there’s been a geographic divide between the two; nowadays, very few colleges require or prefer one test over the other. So which one should you take? Well, since you can’t really say one test is any easier than the other, that all depends on your skills and preferences. Basically, you should go for the one you’ll score higher on!

Here are some tips to help you make your decision:

1. Who says size doesn’t matter?

The ACT is a shorter test. The SAT takes a whopping 3 hours, 45 minutes, while the ACT comes out to a hefty 2 hours, 55 minutes, making the SAT about 30% longer than the ACT. Either way, you’re stuck taking a long test. If you have a ridiculously short attention span, then the ACT might be right for you, but realistically, after nearly 3 hours, why sweat an extra 50 minutes?

2. When in doubt, just guess… right?

The SAT has a guessing penalty – minus a quarter of a point for each incorrect response. Not so with the ACT. Guess away! So you should answer every question on the ACT, but on the SAT, you should just leave the answer blank when you can’t eliminate at least one answer choice. Does this make the SAT “harder”? Not really. With the right strategies, you can even make the SAT’s guessing penalty work to your advantage.

3. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s superscore!

The SAT reports each of your three “subscores” separately-one each for critical reading, writing, and mathematics. So, many colleges will combine your best three subscores from all the times you’ve taken the SAT to make a “superscore.” In the past, schools would not do this with the ACT. Recently, however, many schools have begun to make ACT “superscores” too.

4. What is the difference anyway?

Both tests have a grammar, reading comprehension, essay and math portions. The ACT has an extra “science” section, but don’t worry. I used quotes because it’s really just another test of your reasoning skills – not much chemistry, physics or biology knowledge needed. Broadly speaking, the ACT tests skills that you (should have) learned in high school, while the SAT tries to evaluate your innate problem-solving abilities.

For example, the ACT math section tests a few topics that typically aren’t covered until pre-calculus. While the SAT leaves out these topics, its math problems generally have more complicated setups.

The ACT’s essay is optional, but some colleges require it anyway. Its essay topics are always questions of school policy, while the SAT’s essays deal with more abstract moral or philosophical issues.

In the critical reading sections, the SAT’s vocabulary is harder, but the ACT taxes your critical reading and analysis skills. The ACT English section gives you a couple of long passages with grammar and critical reading questions mixed together; the SAT tests reading and grammar separately.

5. You can’t know if you like it till you’ve tried it!

How do I know which test is better for me? Try them! Take some free practice tests online and see which one fits your fancy. Both the SAT and ACT offer practice questions or tests on their official websites.

The College Education Conspiracy – What They Don’t Want You To Know

Do you believe in conspiracies? Perhaps you don’t think there is a massive UFO cover-up or that Big Foot is secretly being held in an underground bunker however, you do wonder about “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey might say. The rising cost of a college education has always been one of those topics where there seems to be more to the story.

Consider this quote from a college financial aid insider. “You go into massive amounts of debt just to get an education that you need as a prerequisite to get a job. Then you spend the rest of your life paying off that educational debt. There has got to be a better way.”

When I heard this statement it made me stop, think and question everything that I had experienced personally as a high school student approaching college admissions, as a student in college and now as a parent preparing to send my daughter to college.

Once Upon A Time…

It reads almost like a fairytale. We are taught form a very early age that if we desire to have a better quality of life than our parents, we must obtain a college degree. Try using Google to search the phrase “value of a college degree”. You would not be surprised to learn that most of the results are filled with charts and graphs that describe the earning “potential” of a college graduate compared with that of someone with only a high school diploma. It makes sense doesn’t it? In fact companies announce that to even qualify to work for them you must have at least an Associate’s Degree and most likely a Bachelor’s Degree.

Reality Sets In…

For those of us that are old enough to have experienced life 5 – 15 years after college we understand that the fairytale was only partly true. We were not told that while in most cases we do enjoy a better than income than our undereducated counterparts, we were not fully informed about the true cost of all of the student loan debt it took to fund that college education. We were also not told that while we did get our dream job, it was only after changing careers or industries multiple times. In fact, I wonder if as you read this now, you are currently employed in the field for which you received your college degree.

It Gets Worse…

What’s worse is if you attended a well-known expensive university only to find your self today, working at the same company, in the same position, with other people who attended less expensive schools. This would be bad enough if the story ends here but unfortunately it doesn’t. After all of this you would think that we would have learned from our mistakes but we have not. Without knowing it we now are preparing our children to make this high school to college transition no better prepared than we were.