The Distinction Between the ACT and SAT: Which is Better?

Rose, Columnist

Extreme stress, dread, anxiety, lack of interest and fatigue are consequences of a student’s final years of high school. Test after test, project after project, senior-itis isn’t an option for any overachievers who have been striving their hardest since middle school. To add to the work all upperclassmen have to do, they are even required to take a test that examines their skillsin math and English (possibly even science) to attend college. Cramming, not sleeping well, and doing poorly make a student’s final years of high school terrible to bear, but not all students have to do standardized testing. The SAT and ACT are not required for every school. There is a way to avoid taking either test, if you wish to attend a cal-state or community college; however, students who are test-optional and still decide to take the test can skip over math and English placement exams with their SAT/ACT scores.

Now, if a student’s dream is to attend a private university, they should do some research on whether or not the testing is required. At a UC school, testing is for sure required, and any Ivy League will follow the same standards. Students aiming to attend a competitive school like UCLA, UC Berkeley and even Stanford have to pay extra attention to how high they score to make sure they are considered for acceptance. The most competitive schools may even consider students by their SAT II Subject scores, which require extra effort and talent  in specific fields of study, in addition to the standard tests.

All in all, testing depends on the plans of the student specifically, but if a student comes to the decision that they must either take the standard test, a question still remains: The SAT? or the ACT?

The SAT is a test that can be taken around the entire globe. Test takers have four sections to get through and an optional analysis essay. The first two sections are reading and writing and are worth a total of 800 points. The last two are math with and without calculator that also add up to 800 points, making the highest score possible a 1600. There are several free response questions for both math sections, but the rest of the test is multiple choice. This test is ideal for students who need more time to answer questions, feel strongly in one subject or the other, and feel confident with their PSAT scores.

Although the  American College Test (ACT) offers international test centers, it is less publicized. They have 400 centers provided, meaning not every country is available to have one. In that sense, the ACT may be more practical to United States students than anyone else. The test has four sections: reading, writing, math and science. The math portion allows a science or graphing calculator to be used and contains no free response problems. All of the ACT is multiple choice. Each section is worth 36 points and the average between all four sections becomes the student’s overall score, making the highest possible score a 36. Because of the heavy math and science, the ACT is ideal for students taking a lab science, applying for a science/math-based major in college, or students who struggle with free response questions.

Students are able to take both tests if they would like, and they can retake either test too. Almost all colleges and universities will consider the highest score they earn to be the score they make a decision on. It is the students’ job, after all, to submit their scores to any school that wants them. Before making the decision, students should check if the test they want to take is accepted by the college of their choice, then they should assess their skills, and finally, it is the student’s job to sign up. Both tests can be applied for through La Serna’s school website under the Horizon’s College and Career Center or they can be found online through any search engine or their own website. Students should remember to act fast, because when college applications are due for seniors, late fall or early spring, it will be too late to change a score.