Which One is Right for You? ACT vs SAT

SAT vs ACT. Photo from http://tigertutor.net/free_satact

[image from tigertutor.net]

Over the past few years, people have been debating on whether to take the ACT or SAT to get into their choice of college.  At St. Paul’s School, the ACT is offered five times and the SAT is offered three times, annually.

“Take each test once to get a bench mark score, and use the scores from each section to help plan for the subsequent test,” suggests Caroline Cheatwood, the sophomore/junior guidance councilor.

There are many different ways to prepare for the tests, but everyone learns and develops at a different pace.

“To help prepare for the test, use an ACT or SAT practice book, review the practice questions and strategies online, or meet with an ACT or SAT tutor,” Cheatwood suggests.


Answer every question. On the ACT, there is no penalty for guessing the incorrect answers. Only correct answers are scored.


On difficult questions, eliminate as many obvious wrong answers as possible, then mark your guess.


If you are guessing on multiple questions, make sure to guess the same letter answer as often as possible. Statistically, your chances go up on guessing the correct answer this way. ONLY DO THIS IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA OF WHAT TO ELIMINATE. For example, if your default guess of the day is answer C, and on a particular question you are certain you can eliminate answer C, guess differently on that question.

Quick Facts on the ACT

  • The test last three hours, three and a half hours if the writing test is included.
  • The cost of the test is from $34-$49.50.
  • The maximum score is a 36.
  • Louisiana’s average score is a 19.5.
  • The national average score is a 21.
  • St. Paul’s surpasses the national average with an average score of 25.
  • The questions tend to be more straight forward than SAT questions.
  • The ACT has a Science section, and the SAT does not.
  • The ACT is a composite score of each section.
  • The ACT has four sections: English, Reading, Math, and Science, as well as an optional writing test.
  • Some schools will “super score” ACT results, meaning they take your best score from each section across multiple test dates.


Know the order of difficulty. The SAT is divided into three levels: easy, medium, and hard. The questions in the first third of each section are easy, the second third are medium, and the last third are hard.


Use the process of elimination. Each question has five possible choices. By eliminating one or more possibilities, your chances of getting the question right move up 25%. If you are unable to eliminate any of the choices, don’t guess. An incorrect guess will cost you a quarter of a point, and a correct guess will add an entire point.


Don’t be “Average Joe.” “Joe” is your average student who strides for a 500 on each section. He gets all the easy questions correct, some of the medium questions correct, and none of the hard questions correct. Strive to be better than “Average Joe” and improve your score per attempt at the test.

Quick Facts on the SAT

  • The test takes three hours and forty-five minutes.
  • The cost of the test is $50.
  • The SAT has only three sections: Math, Critical Reading, and Writing.
  • The maximum score is a 2400 per section, the maximum score is a 800.
  • The national average score is a 1509, the Math section is a 516, Critical Reading is a 501, and Writing as a 492.
  • The SAT has a strong emphasis on vocabulary.
  • The SAT is scored based on how you do per section, not composite like the ACT.
*ACT/SAT data source: princetonreview.com
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