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SAT vs ACT
There are four things that need to be dealt with when trying to understand the TRUE difference between the SAT and ACT:
1. The nature and structure of the SAT.
2. The nature and structure of the ACT.
3. How to convert an ACT score to an SAT score and vice versa.
4. Which test allows more room for score improvement.
If you really want to get a thorough, in-depth understanding of these two exams, reading a simple web page will not accomplish it. The goal here is to give a general overview to start your education process. That being said, we have written a wonderful 52-page pamphlet entitled “SAT and ACT Decoded: A Practical Guide for Parents and Students.” If you would like to get an e-copy of that pamphlet, free of charge, please fill out the form on this page or call us at 800-998-4371 and ask for Brian – the co-founder of the company.
Nature and Structure of the New SAT
The SAT has gone through a total redesign for 2016 and beyond. It has moved back to the more familiar 400-1600 point grading scale and is broken in to two sections each graded from 200-800 points. The first is Math and the second is entitled Evidenced Based Reading and Writing. There is also an optional essay. The new SAT is a strange exam. Although it employs core academic subjects for the questions, the real intention of the exam is NOT to test your academic ability; it is instead to test your college-level critical thinking skills. As a matter of fact, the exam is heavily modeled after the Common Core, which is used in most public schools across the country.
Nature and Structure of the ACT
For most students, the ACT is a much more comfortable exam. It has four sections of English, Reading, Math, and Science, and basically tests your ability in grammar, reading, math, and interpreting charts, graphs, and tables. Unlike the SAT, it does not test anything other than those core subjects. That is why the vast majority of students feel much more comfortable and confident when taking the ACT.
Converting the Scores
A number of years ago, the makers of these two exams agreed on a conversion chart called the “ACT SAT Concordance Chart.” Because both organizations agreed on the veracity and accuracy of the chart, every college in the country has been using this single source to definitively convert an SAT score to an ACT and vice versa. The chart can be found at the bottom of this page, for your convenience.
However, now that the SAT has changed, this chart does not help. To rectify the issue, the College Board (writers of the SAT) will be creating their own chart in the summer of 2016. That chart will convert scores from the new SAT to the old SAT. Once this is available, colleges will simply put the new SAT through a double conversion: first it will be converted to the old SAT and then that will be converted to an ACT
The ACT SAT Concordance chart is extremely simple to use. The middle column contains possible ACT Composite scores and the right-hand column shows which old SAT score aligns with each one. For the sake of this chart, they only use the Math and Critical Reading sections. As an example, the chart says that a composite score of a 23 on the ACT equals a 1070 on the SAT (counting only the Math and Critical Reading Sections).
As will be discussed below, simply converting scores is only half the battle. The question of how easy it is to improve on each test is equally critical. It is for this reason that choosing which exam to study for is not so simple. This conversion chart does not account for the difficulty level of improving your score, and that needs to be taken in to account when choosing which one to study for.
The ACT has been in its current format (sans the Essay section which was changed in September of 2015) for many years. That means that Tier One has had the opportunity to study a tremendous number of exams and work with countless students. It also means that the methods we employ are “tried and true” in terms of helping students to gain mastery over the exam.
The SAT, on the other hand, is launching for the first time in March of 2016. We have been hard at work since the summer of ’15 to master the new exam, develop insightful methods and identify the similarities of the new test to the old one. That being said, neither Tier One nor any other company for that matter, has had the chance to review years worth of tests and prep hundreds of students from start to finish in the system. The test is simply “too new.”
This does not mean the SAT is a bad test to prepare for, it just means that until more time has passed, the lack of available resources and experience needs to be accounted for when deciding which exam to study for
What to Take Away
The bottom line is that the question of SAT vs ACT is extremely complex. Choosing between them requires expert guidance. Reading a few pages of information on this website is not going to allow you to make such a critical choice on behalf of your child, but it should give you the tools to know which questions to ask.
To find out more information about the “new” SAT vs ACT and which exam is a better fit for your child, give us a call toll-free at 800-998-4371. We will set you up with a free practice SAT and a free practice ACT and will help you determine what is best for your particular situation.
Table 1 Concordance between ACT Composite Score and Sum of SAT Critical Reading and Mathematics Scores
|SAT CR+M (Score Range)||ACT Composite Score||SAT CR+M (Single Score)|
Table 2 Concordance between ACT Combined English/Writing Score and SAT Writing Score
|SAT Writing (Score Range)||ACT English/Writing Score||SAT Writing (Single Score)|
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