Taking a standardised admission test is one of the first steps many students would take to apply to US colleges. There are several reasons why someone may prefer one test to another. Both the SAT and ACT are supposed to check your college-readiness. US colleges view both tests as equivalent. Having said that, since the SAT’s format has been changed this year, it is advisable to take the latter now because of the amount of study material available. For the new SAT, College Board, which administers it, has released six official, practice tests so far. Other prep material is from commercial companies. In contrast, the ACT has much more official material online. Besides, the SAT’s longest section is on reading – 65 minutes – which is challenging for students who do not read for leisure. In the ACT, on the other hand, the reading portion is the shortest – 35 minutes.
Not only this, the SAT has a strong American component. The company has changed the format of its reading part so that every test includes a document from the American founding papers such as the Constitution, Declaration of Independence or Thomas Jefferson’s letters. This is unusual and difficult to access for a non-American person. It makes the reading, already tough for most people, harder for many international students. In comparison, the corresponding section in the ACT includes a passage from: -Literature (an American short story or novel) -Social science (a phenomenon being analysed such as the history of fishing in Polynesia, the impact of traffic or the spread of suburbia, primarily in the US) -Humanities (similar to the prose; often someone’s biography or a story on jazz)-Natural science (about scientific phenomena like why bees interact in a particular way) There is, however, a minor disadvantage to the ACT — though easier, it is marginally faster than the other.
If you struggle with speed, then the SAT is probably a good option for you as it has harder questions but more time allotted to each. But if you can solve simpler questions in less time, then the ACT is the way to go. The other aspect is the use of calculators. The ACT allows this tool. But in the SAT, which has two maths components, calculators can be used in one only. This confuses some test-takers. Tips and tactics Here are some tips for those intending to attempt the ACT. English and reading: ACT reading is more abstract and thematic. To prepare for the English and reading sections, first inculcate a reading habit. If you do not love to read, then you never came across the right book. Start simple – for example, Harry Potter – and read for fun. Build your vocabulary. Write every word you cannot explain (as opposed to using it in a sentence). Science:
There is nothing purely scientific about the questions. This section requires nothing more than being able to analyse and manipulate information in tables and graphs. It is designed to trick or intimidate you by using big names or vague terms (such as a certain variety of amoeba). However, none of that information is relevant. So, go straight to the question and then look for the answer in the graphs and tables. Maths: The most important tip for Indian students would be to not rely excessively on formulas. Rarely do you need to know the formula to solve a question. You often require only common sense.
The ACT does not test your knowledge of a formula but whether you can see how and when to apply it. Lastly, psychological readiness is as crucial as material preparation. Instead of worrying about the score you want, concentrate on what you can control. Do not waste a second thinking about which questions you will answer right or wrong. Think about where you will focus on, what you will start with and what is the simplest technique to apply. –BOX– Points to note New SAT -Reading -Writing and language -Maths -Optional essay required by some colleges Duration: 3 hours + 50 minutes for the essay (optional) ACT-English -Mathematics -Reading -Science-Optional writing component Duration: 3 hours and 30 minutes, including a break + 40 minutes for the writing test