SAT or ACT: Which Is Preferable?


It’s a known fact that the majority of universities in the United States accept the standardized test SAT. Every year almost two million students take the SATs. It is required for most of the US universities to take this test for admission. Probably a lesser known but equally acceptable test in our country is the ACT, although it is rapidly gaining popularity. There are both pros and cons of taking each test and here are some of them:

  • Changes: The new SAT is starting from this October, which makes it kind of difficult to find enough study materials to carry on. Especially, if you are taking the test for the second time, it’s going to be harder for you to get accustomed to the new system. On the other hand, ACT hasn’t had major changes in the actual test. Although, there have been some changes affecting the way the students will view the scores, it will not affect the test difficulty or the scoring itself.
  • Difficulty Level: The difficulty level of SAT mathematics is a bit harder than the ACT’s. Though ACT has a wider range of subject areas, they are fairly basic if you already have a good grip on high school mathematics. The only other section that’s similar between the two is the reading section. ACT reading is easier if you can read fairly quickly. Personally, I found the timing in the ACT test too rigorous. If you’re planning to sit for the exam, make sure to time yourself strictly on each session.
  • Scoring: The new SAT ranges from scores 400-1600 and ACT is scored on a composite score of 36. SAT has three separate sections consisting of evidence-based reading and writing, math, and optional essay. ACT has four separate sections of English, math, reading, and science. If you take ACT with writing you have to complete an essay. Good news is — both tests do not have a guessing penalty.
  • Acceptability: Almost all the US universities accept SAT/ACT both. But in some cases, universities require SAT+SAT subject tests or ACT with writing. So, if you don’t want to go through the trouble of taking two separate tests, you can easily sit for the ACT with writing test. But of course, it’s different for each university.
  • Expense: As an international student, there isn’t much difference on the cost of both the tests. ACT with writing will cost you 97 USD, whereas SAT will cost 103 USD.
  • Practice Test: As SAT is the more popular test in our country, there are a wide range of institutions that take mock/practice tests for SAT, which I highly recommend of taking because it helps you to better prepare yourself for the actual test. But sadly, you won’t find a test centre that takes ACT practice tests.
  • Availability of Study Materials: You can easily find the necessary books for SAT in any book shop. Nilkhet/ New Market will be the best place to find books. There’s only one book available for ACT (McGraw-Hill) in Nilkhet. But you can always order books from some online international shops which usually take 2-3 weeks to reach you. Also, there are always places like the EMK centre where you can go and study without buying the books. Online materials always help you to study better. Magoosh, ACT Up, Allen ACT Prep are some of the apps that you can use.
  • Results: The best thing about the SAT test result is, there is one specific date for your result and it comes on the exact date. Whereas, ACT results can come on any day starting from the second week after your exam to the eighth week. This can really take a toll on your nerves.

Lastly, it is totally up to you which test will be better suited for you. You will be better prepared to make that decision if you have a clear idea on where you’re going to apply. Each test has its distinctive characteristics and only you can decide which suits you more.

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It's always difficult to describe myself because I don't know where to start from. Do I start by saying what school I went to or what my birthday month is? Or do I say what kinds of books and music I'm into? But do they really matter? Can someone really define themselves by some preferences? Aren't we supposed to be so much more than that? I believe I am. I value my own perception of myself than anyone else's. Because at the end of the day, that's all that matters.