Reprint provided with permission from Washington FAMILY Magazine. w w w. theFAMILYmagazine. c o m April 2007 Understanding the Differences: SAT vs. ACT TThe SAT and ACT examinations differ in First, the SAT essay is required. The ACT essay The best strategy is to:
is optional. While, knowledge of grammar,
analytical thinking skills. The ACT is more
usage, and word choice is an important part of
✔ Read the prompt and do not gloss over
both essays, the essay comprises 30% of the
information contained in the prompt.
“aptitude” and “achievement”. The SAT is
writing portion of the SAT, with the writing
designed to evaluate innate ability. The ACT
portion comprising 800 of the 2400 total points
✔ Do not oversimplify. Explain your thesis
measures what a student has learned in high
and provide literary, historical, or scientific
school. The Princeton Review favors the ACT
measure and does not impact the total score.
because it is more knowledge-based and lessambiguous. However, there are other, more
The writing prompts require that students
✔ Freely give your opinion. The use of first
reference historical, literary, or scientific
person “I” is an acceptable strategy.
information. Students must develop a thesis
descriptive words, avoid slang, and check
sentences and supporting details, and aconclusion. This is tantamount to the five-
ten sections - three critical reading, three math,
three writing, and a required essay. The ACT
elementary school; the issues are just more
Similarities and a Word of
contains four sections - English, math, reading,
and science reasoning. The ACT also containsan optional essay. Both exams assume a student
is capable of writing a five-paragraph essay.
includes math to the level of trigonometry.
forget that they are also similar. Both are one
A sense of happiness and fulfillment, not
personal gain, is the best motivation and reward
Frequency, Scoring and Length
p r o c e s s . B o t h a r e e x a m s t h a t t e l l y o u
for one’s achievements. Expecting a reward of
whether or not you take standardized exams
wealth or recognition for achieving a goal can
effectively. Neither exam will tell you or an
There is a difference in the number of times
lead to disappointment and frustration. If we
admissions officer how intelligent you are,
the examinations are offered and how they are
want to be happy in what we do in life, we
your success in school, or even whether you
scored. The SAT is offered seven times each
should not seek achievement for the sake of
year, the ACT six. The SAT exam is scored on
college. The best advice is to take the test
the basis of 200-800 points per section, for a
satisfaction of a job well done is its own reward.
that plays to your strengths. Many colleges
combined three-section total of 600-2400. The
required essay is scored on a scale of 1-6. The
This prompt requires the student to write an
prefer one to the other, so it is important to
ACT is scored on the basis of 1-36 points. The
essay that develops a point of view on this issue.
check with the colleges you are considering
optional essay is scored on a scale of 2-12. The
It also requires the student to support his or
before committing to either examination.
SAT has a guessing penalty of 1/4 point for
her position with reasoning and examples taken
every incorrectly marked answer. The ACT has
Regardless of which examination is taken,
begin preparing early by working to build math,verbal, writing, and critical thinking skills. No
The length of the SAT is 3 hours 45 minutes.
The length of the ACT varies depending upon
whether the student completes the essay. Total
segregated time in America is 11:00 a.m. on
time for the ACT is 2 hours 55 minutes or 3
Sunday morning. Using what you know about
hours 25 minutes with the optional essay. Both
Dr. Perrino is Owner and Director of Northern VirginiaTutoring Service, LLC and an Associate Professor of
analytical skills, and writing skills. Sociology at Northern Virginia Community College. NVTS offers subject-specific tutoring and academicThe SAT and ACT Essays
This essay requires a student to develop a
coaching/mentoring to students from elementary to adult
thesis statement and provide historical or socio-
levels. Dr. Perrino can be reached at 703-534-5779 or
The essay has generated much discussion and
via email at DrPerrino@nvtutoring.com. The website for
concern. It is important to note several things.
understanding of this period of history.
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