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The American


o you or someone you know want to go to college in the US? If so, you know there’s a lot involved – applications to fill out, essays to write, teacher recommendations to request, and tests to take. The test can be the most intimidating part for students, especially those living outside the US. Perhaps you’ve heard of the SAT and ACT as they are required by the majority of US Colleges. But what exactly are they? How do you know which one to take? And perhaps you’ve heard something about them changing in the near future – how will this affect you?

What are the SAT and ACT?

The SAT and ACT are both entrance exams accepted at all colleges requesting such tests. While traditionally, the SAT was the one that the ‘elite’ or East and West Coast schools and Ivies accepted, the reality now is that schools all take either SAT or ACT and don’t discriminate between the two. In fact the ACT has become the more popular test in recent years.

Which Test Should I Take?

Unfortunately it’s a bit complicated for the time being. Beginning in March 2016 the SAT will be virtually unrecognisable to its current test, so you need to consider when you will be taking the test. If you are planning to take your test before May 2016 in the UK (or March in the

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US), then you’ll be taking either the current SAT or the ACT. Let’s look at both pre-and-post March/May 2016 test options.

Taking the test before March 2016? (Current SAT and ACT – similarities and differences) If you are testing before March/May 2016, you will take either of the current exams. Both the current SAT and ACT tests cover roughly the same material in Reading, Writing (essay and grammar), and Math and both are mostly multiple-choice. The similarities end there. The ACT covers more material – for example, there’s trigonometry in the Math section, plus there’s a Science section requiring data interpretation – but it’s more straightforward than the SAT. The SAT covers less material – no trigonometry or Science – but it tends to be trickier to ascertain what is being asked for. The ACT is fast: English – 45 minutes for 75 questions; Math – 60 minutes for 60 questions; Reading and Science – each 35 minutes for 40 questions. Meanwhile, the SAT is long: 3 ¾ hours, not including breaks. The ACT essay is optional, while for the SAT the essay is mandatory. ACT has no guessing penalty; on the SAT you lose a quarter of a point for every incorrect answer, so guessing is not usually recommended. The SAT has a greater emphasis on vocabulary – some might say ‘esoteric’ vocabulary

while the ACT doesn’t directly test vocabulary, though it will be necessary to understand words in context.

Scoring of the current SAT and ACT

The current SAT is comprised of three major Sections – Critical Reading, Math and Writing, which includes a 25 minute, non-optional essay. These sections are broken down into shorter timed sections – Math and Critical Reading each have 3 sections – two 25 minute sections and one 20 minute section. Writing has one 25 minute essay and a 25 minute and 10 minute grammar sections. Each area – Critical Reading, Math and Writing – is scored on a 200-800 point level, plus the essay score of 0-12 which is factored into the total Writing Score. The combined possible score is 600-2400. Those students considering top schools really need a combined score of 2100 or higher. The ACT has four main areas – Writing (45 minutes), Math (60 minutes), Reading (35 minutes), and Science (35 minutes). There’s also an optional 30 minute essay at the end. Each section is scored from 1-36, with the four scores then averaged to give a final, single score. The essay is given a separate score of 0-12, which isn’t factored into the composite score.

Which to take pre March/May 2016 So how to tell which test is right for

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The American July 2015 Issue 745  

The leading cross-media publication for Americans in the UK - and anyone interested in American culture

The American July 2015 Issue 745  

The leading cross-media publication for Americans in the UK - and anyone interested in American culture