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The SAT and ACT can seem daunting once you’ve signed up to take one or both. There is, after all, a lot more to them than just showing up and testing.
However, understanding what’s involved in the tests doesn’t take very long and will help alleviate any fears you may have. Here are some answers to your most pressing questions about the SAT and ACT!
SAT & ACT FAQs
- How important is the SAT compared to the ACT, or vice versa?
It completely depends on the college you want to attend. Some colleges prefer the ACT to the SAT, while others would like only the SAT scores, and still others wouldn’t mind getting both. It’s up to you to talk to your potential college choices and see what they would prefer to help you decide which test(s) to take.
However, note that the ACT and SAT scores aren’t everything for college admission. Colleges will also pay attention to your high school GPA, your extracurricular activities and volunteer experiences, your entrance essays and recommendations, and any work experience you might have. Make sure to place just as much work into these as you would studying for the SAT or ACT.
- How long are the SAT and ACT tests?
Collegeboard.org says that the SAT will be 3 hours and 45 minutes long with 3 short breaks. The ACT is significantly shorter at 2 hours and 55 minutes, but if you take the optional writing test, you’ll add another 30 minutes to your test time.
- How are each of the tests scored?
SAT - The total score you can get on the SAT is 2400, which includes 200-800 points from each of the three sections (critical reading, mathematics, and writing) as well as two subscores on the writing section: 20-80 points for multiple choice and 2-12 points for an essay. The SAT score is scaled to be able to compare your scores to those of other students and previous versions you took (read more about scaling here).
ACT - You’ll earn a score of 1-36 on each of the four sections (English, Reading, Math, and Science), which will all be averaged together in your composite score. Your composite score can also range from 1-36, and a score of 21 is the national average.
- How can I do my best on the tests?
First of all, put in good study time. Many schools and colleges recommend at least 5-12 weeks of proper preparation. You can often get practice tests from your school, local college, online, or sometimes even from the public library (and we, of course, have some great SAT prep and ACT prep programs that can help).
Also, make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the day of the test, and eat a healthy, filling breakfast. Since both tests will give you breaks, use your breaks wisely by using the restroom, grabbing some water, or eating a nutritious snack like an apple (which give you a natural energy boost).
As you prepare for your test(s), just remember not to stress. If you need to retake the ACT or SAT, you can do so as many times as you want (just remember you’ll have to pay to register every time!).
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