Frequently Asked Questions About SAT & ACT Testing
SAT vs. ACT - What are the differences?
SAT (1600 total points)
- Writing & Language
- Essay (Optional)
According to The Princeton Review, the SAT is three hours long if you don't choose to write an essay. If you pick the essay test option, you have three hours and 55 minutes to finish the test. There is no science component, so if you're not aiming for a career that requires science knowledge, this may be a good choice. The math portion covers arithmetic, Algebra I & II, geometry, trigonometry and data analysis. Depending upon the math question, you may not be allowed to use your calculator to get the right answer. The minimum score is 400, and it maxes out at 1600.
ACT (36 total points)
- Science Reasoning
- Essay (Optional)
The ACT tests you on science reasoning in addition to math and reading. You are allowed two hours and 55 minutes to complete the test if you don't do the essay portion. You get three hours and 40 minutes to do the test with the essay option. The math part does not test you on data analysis. Unlike the SAT, you are free to use your calculator on all math problems to get the correct answer. The science part doesn't test your science knowledge; it tests your critical thinking skills. The minimum score is a one, and the maximum score is 36. Both exams are considered for merit based scholarship awards and admissions.
Should I take both or just one?
- It’s up to you! Utilize the information in the question above to see which test would be a better fit. Some students do well on one and not the other, so it doesn’t hurt to try both. Consider taking a practice test before investing extra time or money. Additionally, you should check the admissions requirements of the colleges/universities you are planning to apply to and see if they have a preferred test.
When should I take the SAT?
- We recommend you test for the first time during the spring of your junior year. This way, if your score isn’t as high as you would like, you have time to test again before college applications are due in the fall of your senior year.
How many times should I take the test?
- There is no rule about how many times you should take a standardized test, but some experts recommend taking the ACT and/or SAT two or three times during your junior and/or senior year.
If you are content with your score after taking a test once, that’s fine.
But beware of taking the ACT and/or SAT more than three times. Not only does this get expensive, but it also is unlikely to keep increasing your score. In addition, colleges may view a student who takes a standardized test four or five times as someone who’s too focused on increasing test scores instead of maintaining a well-rounded approach to school and activities.
How do I register?
- For more information, test dates and how to register for the ACT: https://www.act.org/
- For more information, test dates and how to register for the SAT: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat
Where can I find study resources?
- ACT Practice: https://academy.act.org/
- Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy: khanacademy.org/
- SAT Practice Site: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/practice
- Study Guides/Books at the local library
What is a "superscore" or "super composite score"?
- Some schools will allow applicants to calculate a superscore or super composite score. Schools that accept this method of scoring can have different formulas for students to use. In essence, it is a calculation taken from your best individual scores from the ACT or SAT taken on different dates; i.e. your best ACT English score from one testing day and your best Math, best Reading, and best Science scores from other testing days. Some colleges superscore across all dates you tested and some allow calculations across only the test dates you choose to submit. Check for the specific policy held at each school.