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SAT versus ACT: What students need to take

By Kaitlyn Walsh, staff writer

Of course, students who are planning on expanding their education after high school have heard of the SAT or the ACT tests. They can spend hours studying for either of these tests and a pretty penny to take them. However, some students may not know the difference between the two exams, or which one will benefit them more.

The SAT is out of 1600, and consists of 154 questions in reading, writing and language, and math, along with one set of open-ended math questions that you cannot use a calculator to complete. Students have three hours to complete all questions with around an hour for each section.

The ACT however, is out of 36, and contains 215 questions in reading, english, math, and science. You get significantly less time to complete the sections than the SAT, with an average time of 45 minutes for each section. The ACT does allow you to use a calculator for all of the math questions, but it also contains a section of science-based questions that test your knowledge of scientific analysis and data reading.

Neither test gives a penalty for a wrong answer. The questions on the new SAT also increase in difficulty as you move through the section, while the ACT questions are mixed in their difficulty.

When the SAT changed to a new format in March, colleges soon began to de-emphasize the SAT, saying that standardized tests do not accurately measure a student’s success in their specific college. Colleges also said that some good students can be bad test takers, especially under a time limit. Some even agree that the SAT is only based on how well you can take a test, instead of being knowledge based.

Colleges like Allegheny, George Washington University, and Hampshire College no longer mandate test scores in their admissions.  According to the Hampshire College web site, “Standardized test scores do not predict a student’s success at our college.” 

A small number of students at Saegertown have taken both tests recently, with a different take-aways from each. 

“I thought the ACT was more knowledge based since the time limit on the sections was smaller,” said junior Tanna Walters. “The SAT just seemed like you could sit there and not know anything but still do well because you know how to take a test.”

Even though both tests have their differences, most colleges will accept either scores no matter which one students take.

(Scores from the first administration of the new SAT are scheduled to be released tomorrow, May 10. Look for a follow-up story soon.)






staceyanderton1 View All

Journalism Adviser, Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School

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