What are the differences between the SAT and ACT?

The SAT and ACT makers use similar, misleading phrases on their respective sites about their test formatting. Many counselors, parents and students have been led astray about entrance exams since both the SAT and ACT’s websites clearly state that each test “measures what is learned in high school”. This is true in the sense that these tests cover reading, writing and math in some form or another, but the questions are written in a format to test a student’s logic skills since critical thinking is a necessary component for college readiness. These tests are not about content but are logic and reasoning based. Students cannot study for the AT or ACT rather they must study how the question are written and answered. This explains why 7th graders often score higher than their senior counterparts. These tests are the only fair way a college can compare all students equally since a 4.0 at one school is not the same at another; these tests level the playing field regardless of where a student lives or what school they attend.

Overview of the SAT and ACT


Which colleges take the SAT or ACT?

Various states, high schools and parents are still repeating that colleges take only the SAT or only the ACT. This may have been true 20 years ago, but not today. Both tests are widely accepted by every college and if one school prefers one over the other, it will convert the score. When certain areas only promote the ACT, they do a disservice to their students by not giving them the opportunity for the SAT and of course the PSAT which can yield amazing scholarships in the junior year. We believe students should try them both since there are free practice tests on both their websites.
Here is the SAT/ACT Conversion Chart (pg. 7)

Should students write the SAT essay even though it is optional?

Most students will disregard writing the SAT essay since it is optional but here are 4 reasons it could be to their disadvantage if students opt-out of writing it regardless of what school they attend:

It gives a complete profile which won’t hurt scholarship opportunities.

Some colleges will exempt the student from writing classes

It could be the determining factor if an admission’s counselor is on the fence about the application.

Students who opted out of the essay and later find out their college requires it, they will then have to retake the entire SAT again. Many of our students have received perfect essay scores on the SAT, ACT and Accuplacer as well as other tests. We teach how to use a proven template since the essay is also standardized.
Colleges that require the SAT essay: Click here

Since the ACT essay is also optional, should students always write it as well for the same reasons as the SAT essay?

Yes, students should always check the college list that requires the ACT essay but as for the SAT essay reason above, it can be beneficial to always opt-in for the ACT essay.
Colleges that require the ACT essay.

How can I find out how many National Merit winners do each college accept?

It is a bragging right for colleges to have students who have received recognition by the National Merit Corporation because of their junior PSAT. Some of the perks that colleges offer for these students who enroll are: full-ride, free tuition, free room and board, grad school money, new computer, study-abroad stipends, spending cash, honors dorms, etc. We teach students how to ae tests as young as 6th grade so they can prepare for the SAT for a 7th grade talent search. They also are encouraged to take the PSAT in 8th, 9th and 10th grade for practice and the 11th grade when it counts for scholarships.
The list for projected National Merit winners from each college: (Pages 20-22)

Where do I find the PSAT percentiles for my student’s score?

Sophomores and juniors can learn what percentile their PSAT scores fell into by using this official chart by the National Merit Corporation. The goal is to score in the 99 percentiles of your state to fall into the scholarship range. Students who take the PSAT in younger grades have the ability to learn from their weaknesses before the junior year. The PSAT test booklet is sent to the school or to the home if box 22 is checked.
The PSAT percentile score chart: (Pages 6-9)

Do you recommend guessing on the SAT or even the ACT?

When the SAT was redesigned, it followed the protocol of the ACT when it came to wrong answers on the test. Prior to the change, wrong answers would cost students points on their overall SAT score which discouraged students from guessing. But just like the ACT, the SAT removed the guessing penalty so students can guess without a point deduction if the answer is wrong. This has caused a slew of test prep companies to encourage students to go ahead and guess if students don’t know the answer. Unfortunately, this is bad advice since there is a 75% chance on the SAT and 80% chance on the ACT of getting the question wrong when guessing. Based on the bell curve, correct questions can be worth as much as 40 points. Knowing this, students shouldn’t be too quick to guess on a question they don’t understand as suggested by so many programs. We teach students the steps to test success and answering more correct questions using strategies and by going through the test 3-4 times instead of one time through since they are given around a minute or less per question. We teach them to answer questions in 30 seconds or less. If the question can’t be answered quickly, skip it and come back to tit later. By understanding our subconscious strategy, students usually will answer more questions as they answer them in a certain order.

SAT Time Overview

ACT Overview Time