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A Mathematical Reason to Choose ACT® Over SAT®

ACT® or SAT®? Which is the best one for you? All students should try both. Whether you take an official test or a practice one, all students should try both to see which they prefer. 

After the SAT® relaunch in 2016, there are now fewer differences between the tests. Nevertheless, some of those differences can be significant for some students.  For example, the ACT® math section is all multiple choice versus the both multiple choice and grid-in sections of the SAT®. The ACT® has a dedicated science section while science passages on the SAT® are in the reading section. The SAT® has fewer questions per section and more time per question as compared to the ACT®. There are also some slight content differences as the ACT® favors more geometry in its math section than the SAT®. Also, the essay prompt on both tests is quite different.  Since all colleges and universities will accept either the SAT® or the ACT®, it is worth the time to try both, determine which is better for you, and focus on preparation for that test.  Then again, there may be a very simple mathematical reason to favor the ACT® over the SAT®. On the ACT®, the final score is a composite, i.e. average, of the four test sections. The SAT®, on the other hand, sums the total of the verbal and math sections for a total score.  Put differently, math on the ACT® is one of four data points (25% of the total) that is then averaged into the composite score. Math on the SAT® is half of the total points (50% of the total). So if math is an area of weakness for you, perhaps the ACT® and its composite score is better for you?  Additionally, since the ACT® is an average of four sections, you might only need to perform well on three of the four sections to get your goal score. For example, say your goal score on the ACT® is a 30. Mathematically, you would need a 30 on three of the four sections and no lower than a 28 on the fourth section. A composite score of a student who scores a 30, 30, 30 and 28 is 29.5 which rounds to a 30.  One of my students scored a 34 on one section and a perfect 36 on the other three sections of the ACT®. His composite was a 36…a perfect score! Even though he did not get a perfect score on each section, he earned a perfect composite score. This would not be possible on the SAT® but mathematically possible on the ACT®.  In the end, each student should figure out which test is better for each student. Even if the mathematical reason is not compelling enough, consider all of the test differences, try them both out and determine the right test for you.  If you need further help navigating this decision, contact CROSSWALK today. 

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