PSAT and SAT
Seniors who are applying to four-year colleges are very strongly encouraged to take the SAT again during October or November. In addition, juniors and seniors may want to consider taking the ACT test, or Subject Tests (if required by their colleges). Students must register for these additional test dates directly through the College Board website or through the ACT website. Test dates and registration deadlines are on their websites.
Seniors who are applying to community colleges are often asked to take the Accuplacer exam for placement purposes, which is available at the community colleges.
ACT and SAT Comparison - 2013-2014
Test Purpose and General Content: Designed to measure achievement in the areas of English, mathematics, reading and science. There is also an optional writing section.
Content/Structure: Each content area is tested in one “chunk” (English, Math, Reading, Science). All questions are multiple-choice format (other than the writing). The questions and essay topic on the ACT are often described as more straightforward than the SAT. The math section covers Pre-Algebra, Algebra I and II, Geometry, and some Trigonometry. The science section covers interpretation analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem solving in Earth Sc./Bio./Chem./Phys.
Length: 2 hours, 55 minutes, plus the 30-minute optional essay. Total of 215 questions.
Cost: $36.00, or $52.50 with writing
Scoring: Based on the number of correct answers. No penalty for wrong answers. Each section is given a score of 1-36. There is also a composite score of 1-36, which is the average (not total) of the four subtest scores (not including writing). The composite score is the primary score used in college admissions.
Test Purpose and General Content: Designed to measure critical reading, writing, and mathematical reasoning skills.
Content/Structure: Content areas are broken up into 10 sections, with the required 25-minute essay at the beginning. The other sections rotate back and forth between reading and math. . There is more focus on vocabulary and critical thinking and problem-solving on the SAT than on the ACT. The math sections cover only Pre-Algebra, Algebra I and II, and Geometry.
Length: 3 hours and 45 minutes (including the required writing). Total of 170 questions
Scoring: Based on the number of correct answers, however there is a small penalty (1/4 point) for wrong answers to deter random guessing. Scores range from 200-800 on each section. The SAT total possible score range is from 600-2400.
Bottom Line: There are some differences in the style, content and structure between the tests. Neither test is specifically easier or more difficult. Both are acceptable by most admissions offices, but you must study the requirements of your colleges to be sure. Keep in mind that students often improve their test scores by taking the same test twice.