Student Life

Students test their knowledge on the ACT and SAT: Find which test is best for you

As ACT and SAT registration and test dates approach, many high school students are signing up to take these standardized tests that play such a significant role in the college selection process.

Students’ scores serve as comparison points when colleges look at applications. “High schools vary greatly in grading scales and the difficulty of their curriculum,” Director of Guidance and Academic Services Lizanne Ingram said. “These tests serve as a common unit of measure for colleges.”

These standardized tests provide one of the biggest factors that college acceptance staffs consider. “Some argue that some students don’t test well, but these tests tend to be a good predictor of college success,” Ingram said.

While some colleges require their applicants to take one of the tests specifically, or both tests, most colleges will accept scores from either. This means that students can find which test they score better on and focus on preparing for that one.

To find out which test is best for you, read the following points and tally up how many of each apply to you.

  • I did well on the PLAN test.
  • I did well on the PSTAT.
  • I am a fast reader.
  • I have an extensive vocabulary.
  • I am very opinioned and very persuasive.
  • I need a lot of mental breaks when I am testing.
  • I am a good science student.
  • I have very good reasoning skills.
  • I am a good guesser.
  • I am an adept writer, even when I am tired.

If you identify with more underlined traits, then you would rather take a test focusing on science knowledge and mathematics expertise.  The ACT is a better fit for you, so sign up for the ACT.

If you have more italicized traits, then you are more confident in taking a test that emphasizes reasoning skills and vocabulary.  The SAT is probably a better test of your personal skills, so sign up for the SAT.

Junior Hannah Dries has taken the ACT and SAT in the past few months. “I prefer the ACT because the test seems more organized,” Dries said. “Plus, I liked having the writing portion at the end so I didn’t have to worry the rest of the test. I could just knock the first sections out.” However, Dries liked that the SAT offered more mental breaks. She plans on taking both tests in the future.

According to the official ACT website, the main difference between the ACT and SAT is the structure. The ACT tests subject matter and what a student has learned throughout high school, while the SAT is broader and tests reasoning skills. Also, the ACT has five sections – English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test. The SAT has three sections – Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test. However, the SAT is taken in ten intervals with breaks in between, while the ACT is taken only has four or five intervals, depending on whether the student takes the writing portion or not.

Starting in 2005, the SAT has required students to take the writing portion. The first section of the SAT that students take is the writing portion.  For the ACT, students end the test with the writing portion. In both writing portions, students are tested on their ability to offer an opinion on a particular subject and support their opinion with evidence and facts.

In addition, the SAT penalizes students for wrong guesses, while the ACT score is calculated based on the number of correct answers only. Another difference students will find is that the SAT has an emphasis on vocabulary, and the ACT tests trigonometry in addition to the SAT’s algebra I and II and geometry.

Based on ACT statistics from the past five years, McNicholas students score higher than the state benchmark, as well as the average scores of all Ohio students.  The benchmark score is 18 for the English section, 22 on Mathematics, 21 on Reading, and 24 on the Science. The average composite ACT McNicholas and state scores are displayed below:

Graduation Year of Students

School   Average Score

State   Average Score

2008

23.4

21.7

2009

23.8

21.7

2010

23.8

21.8

2011

24.0

21.8

2012

24.5

21.8

The next SAT test dates are May 4 and June 1, and the next ACT test date is June 8.

About Hayley Coldiron

Senior Hayley Coldiron is an Advanced Journalism student and the Editor-in-Chief. She enjoys dancing and has been on the McNicholas Dance Team for four years. She is involved in Service Club, International Club, Spirit Club, and is a McNicholas Ambassador. Hayley also likes traveling and spending time with friends and family.

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Photo of the Week

U.S. Representative and U.S. Army Reserves Colonel Brad Wenstrup presents WWII veteran Frank "Bud" Buschmeier with the French Legion of Honor Medal on Nov. 10 during McNicholas's Veterans Day assembly. Following the assembly, McNick hosted its annual Veterans Day Breakfast to thank veterans and active service-members for their service to the United States.

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