Whether you’re a high school student or an adult returning to college, having to decide between the ACT or SAT exam can be challenging.
Exam Face-off: ACT versus SAT
Before we break down each exam in detail, let’s do an at-a-glance comparison to give you an idea of how the two exams compare:
The “New” SAT
Allotted time per question: 1 minute, 10 seconds
- Reading – 65 minutes, 52 questions
- Math – 80 minutes, 58 questions (25 minutes, no calculator & 55 minutes with calculator)
- Writing & Language – 35 minutes, 44 questions
- Essay – 50-minute section (optional)
Exam offered seven times per year: January, March, April, May, June, October, November, December
Cost: $54.50 ($43 without essay)
Allotted time per question: 49 seconds
- English – 45 minutes, 75 questions
- Math – 60 minutes, 60 questions
- Reading – 35 minutes, 40 questions
- Science – 35 minutes, 40 questions
- Writing – 40-minute essay (optional)
Exam offered six times per year: February, April, June, September, October, December
Cost: $56.50 ($39.50 without essay)
Which Exam Caters to My Strengths
Now that you know the major differences between the SAT and ACT exams, it’s time to decide which test best caters to your strengths.
Both exams require a strong understanding of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. However, 9 out of 60 questions in the ACT Math Section include advanced mathematical concepts, which are tested less rigorously in the SAT.
In short, if you are stronger in Math, the ACT might be the right choice for you.
Grammar and Writing Skills
The Writing and Language sections for each test require the same skills. However, the ACT focuses more on rhetoric strategies and punctuation. In regards to the optional essays, it’s important to note they are different, but not harder.
The ACT asks you take a stand on a controversial issue and address its counter arguments, while the SAT asks you to evaluate the different elements (evidence, structure, reasoning, etc.) of a fully-written essay. To see which essay style best matches your strengths, check out a few sample essay questions for each exam type and see which type you prefer.
Quite often, when we mention the ACT Science Section, many start thinking about chemistry, biology, physics, and geology… and start to panic. Yet in reality, to do well in the Science section of the ACT, accurate and timely interpretation of information represented in graphs and charts is key. If you are not a fan of charts and graphs, the SAT might be a better option for you.
The ACT gives you, on average, 21 seconds less to spend on each question. So, with the ACT, you are fighting the clock, not just the material. And, you have to answer quite a few more questions.
If you have a strong attention span and perform well under time pressure, this might be the test for you (as you can leverage your skills and gain an advantage over students who may not feel as comfortable under these conditions). On the other hand, the SAT may be the better option if you don’t work well too well under pressure.
The Old SAT vs. New SAT
Let’s take a brief glance at the changes between the old SAT and the new SAT (which was introduced in March 2016).
The scoring range for the new SAT is 400-600 (compared to 600-2400). In terms of time allotted, the new SAT is 3 hours long, with an extra 50 minutes available for an optional essay. Additionally, the old SAT Critical Reading & Writing and Critical Reading sections have been combined into one Evidence Based Reading and Writing section in the new SAT.
For some, these updates are a welcome change. For others, the new format requires additional focus as you now take multiple steps to answer questions and reading passages contain more complex structures and vocabulary. And while there may be fewer sections in the new SAT, completing these sections requires more time than the old exam.
Believe it or not, colleges in certain regions of the United States prefer certain tests. That’s not something that should dissuade you from sitting for either exam though, especially if the university explicitly says they accept both exams.
To give you an idea of certain regional preferences, some private universities and colleges on the West and East coasts tend to favor SAT scores, while certain public colleges in the Midwest and South seem to prefer ACT scores.
That being said, if you strongly favor one exam over the other, take the exam that plays to your strengths!
We hope this look at the differences between the ACT and SAT has been helpful. Just remember, you should choose the exam that plays to your strengths.
Still unsure of which exam to take?
Check out what other exam-takers and prospective students are saying about each exam below:
SAT vs. ACT Exam FAQs
Thanks for taking the time to read my question! I am currently a rising senior in high school. I scored an 1870 on the new SAT, have an unweighted GPA of 3.8 and am very involved in extracurriculars. For example, I am the president and founder of my school’s Young Democrats Club and am completing internships under the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and under the local teacher’s union. By the time I finish high school, I will have taken 6 AP classes along with 15 honors classes. I have a list of several schools I’m interested in. I was wondering, how many “reach schools” should I apply to? I’m working with a private SAT tutor to bring up the SAT scores. What other advice would you have for me to make my application more desirable to a school like Georgetown? Finally, would I be considered a legacy candidate at a school if my grandfather attended it?
It sounds like you’re doing all of the right things! You have a strong record and should be in the running at a number of fine schools. In response to your specific questions, the only thing I can think of that you could do to possibly improve your chance of getting into a top school is to take the SAT again, as you mentioned. You have a very good score, but if you think you could raise it a total of 100 points or so you probably would improve your chances at some of the top schools.
It’s hard to say how many “reach” schools you should apply to. I think you just need to decide which ones you would really like to go to. A number in the 2 to 4 range comes to mind, but, again, that’s a personal choice. I don’t know if financial considerations affect you, but, as you know, schools charge an application fee.
In regard to your legacy question, that depends on the school. Some schools will give a preference to legacies, so you need to check directly with the schools you have in mind.
I am going to be a senior in a highly ranked public school and have decent grades. I am in the top 3% of my class, play varsity tennis, and am in a few clubs in which I hold strong positions. My concern when it comes to college admissions is my test scores. I am very good at math, but the reading and writing sections seem to let me down. I scored a 1970 on the new SATs (800 Math, 600 Reading, and 570 Verbal) and a 29 composite score on the ACTs (35 Math, 24 Reading, 29 English, and 26 Science). I am not going to ask what my chances are of getting into a certain college, because I realize that is a question no one can know. But what should I do to go about bettering my English scores? I plan to retake both tests, but if the scores do not improve, then what is another step I could take to help improve my chances in that area of college admissions? Also, I answered 68 of 75 questions on the English part of the ACT correct and still got a 29. How are these sections being scored?
I’ll answer your last question first. ACT scores are determined by counting the number of questions on each test that you answered correctly. No points are deducted for incorrect answers. Then, the number of correct answers (your “raw score”) is converted to a scale score.
While a scale score of 29 out of 36 might seem low, considering the number of questions you answered correctly, it’s important to put the number in context: According to the ACT website, an English score of 29 puts you in the 93rd percentile nationally. This means you scored higher than some 93 percent of high school students who took the test — very impressive! (Your composite ACT score, by the way, falls in the 95th percentile, which is also quite impressive.)
If you still want to improve your scores, the best strategy is to take a test preparation course or to organize a course of study on your own. Whichever you choose, the most important thing is to take as many practice tests as possible. (The makers of both the SAT and the ACT publish old tests for practice purposes, you can find them in your local bookstore.)
Another way to raise your English scores is to beef up your vocabulary. Many test prep books contain lists of the most commonly tested words. Try studying a certain number of words nightly until you’ve mastered the lists.
I just got my results back from the new SAT with the following scores: 625 in math, 500 in critical reading, 460 in writing, 42 in multiple choice, and 8 in essay. Which figures do I add to get my SAT score?
You add the 625, 500 and 460 for a total of 1585. These are your scaled scores (reported in the range of 200 to 800). The scores for the multiple choice and essay are subscores that were used to compute your total score of 460 in the writing section. The multiple choice subscore is reported on a 20-80 scale, and the essay subscore is reported in a 2 to 12 range. According to the College Board, the multiple choice subscore counts for about 70% of the total writing section scaled score, and the essay counts for about 30%.
How do the SAT and ACT compare?
The SAT and ACT are both standardized tests designed to give colleges a common measurement by which to judge applicants. The SAT tests critical reading, math, and writing and is scored from 200 to 800 per section, for a total of 2400 points. The ACT tests English, math, reading, and science and is scored from 1 to 36. The ACT also has a writing section, which is optional, unlike the SAT’s writing section, which is required.
The focus of the exams is also slightly different: The SAT ostensibly measures “aptitude,” meaning there is an emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking. The ACT, in contrast, is more content-based, with a larger focus on knowledge acquired in high school. Most American colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT. The important thing is to find out which test is required by the schools to which you’re applying (and, in the case of the ACT, whether or not the writing section is required). Since most schools accept either exam, it’s a good idea to determine which test plays to your strengths.
Admissions Guru, I don’t exactly understand what SAT II is. What’s the point in taking it? Do colleges like so see it on a transcript?
The SAT II tests are one-hour, multiple choice tests, on writing, literature, mathematics, history, sciences and foreign languages. Some schools, particularly the most competitive schools, require that you take as many as three of these subject tests. The schools that do require them may designate which subject you need to take or they may let you pick them. These schools may use the test results to determine your acceptance or placement in college courses.
Even if a school does not require the SAT II, they will still consider your scores on those tests. Therefore, it’s something for you to consider taking, although it’s hard to say how much weight a particular school would put on these scores if they’re not required.
If the schools you’re interested in don’t require them, I would take them only if you’re looking to get exempted from certain course requirements and/or to be accepted in certain courses that may require the SAT II without any other prerequisite courses.
In what grade do people usually take the SAT or ACT?
I’m going with the spring of one’s junior year of high school and fall of one’s senior year. I recommend taking either of the tests twice, unless you’re completely satisfied with your score. If you take it in the fall of your senior year, you still have late-winter opportunities to take it again if needed.
I am currently entering my senior year in high school, and have finished taking all necessary standardized tests. Although I have received many accolades in math, and my teachers comments on my innate math ability, my math scores (SAT 1 and Math 2C) are less than I would expect (I received mid-600s). Will the prestigious colleges I am applying to investigate my situation? Should I take these tests again, or will it not make a difference? When I take these tests I truly just run out of time.
A lot of people would kill for mid-600s. But anyway, I’m not sure what situation you want colleges to investigate. That you are better in math than your scores show? I mean, you’re 150 points from perfect!
However, if you are unsatisfied with your score, take the darn thing again. Colleges consider the highest score. Before you take it again, though, develop a strategy for working faster. This might mean taking an SAT prep course, or simply buying a book that provides SAT prep. If you didn’t want to take the test again, maybe you could get a recommendation from a math teacher touting your math ability.
At any rate, I’m not sure how selective of a college you’re after, but based on math SAT scores, you’re going to be in the running.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of retaking the SAT if you did not do as well as you had hoped the first time?
The disadvantages, I suppose, are another Saturday in a lousy lunchroom somewhere taking a test that, for most, is not a heck of a lot of fun. And I guess spending another $20 or so with The College Board. The advantages are that you almost certainly will score higher the second time around if for no other reason than you know what to expect (of course, it’s a different test). If you really want to avoid having to take the test twice, here’s some quick advice:
First, prepare for the test. If you can’t afford or see the need in test prep, at least check out some of the test prep books in your local library or bookstore.
Second, get your head in the right place for the test. Get some sleep the night before—yeah, yeah, I know it was a Friday night, but exercise some restraint.
Finally, try. When you get into the test, don’t sit there and say to yourself, “This is a crock.” These scores matter, as much as I hate to admit it. (But don’t bother telling that to the 165 Harvard applicants who scored 1600 on the SAT—a perfect score—and still didn’t get in.)
I’m trying to reach an SAT score above 1900. I take practice tests, yet my scores are generally low. I want to get into a top school such as Johns Hopkins. Should I get tutoring?
While taking practice tests will help familiarize you with the test format, your test scores probably won’t increase until you learn how to take the test. Taking an SAT prep course should do the trick. Not only are their teachers SAT whizzes, but they’ve spent hours figuring out tricks that will make the SAT less painful — and help you discern exactly what the test makers are looking for. They’ll also help you come up with a personalized study plan designed to help you earn your target score.
The major test preparation companies also offer private tutoring, but the cost of private tutoring typically exceeds the price of one of their prep courses. Plus, while an individual tutor can work with you one-on-one, that arrangement doesn’t give you the benefit of hearing other students’ questions and concerns. However, you need to decide whether taking a course or getting a private tutor will be better for you. I think it depends mainly on whether you’re disciplined enough to study on your own without being prodded by a private tutor each week. Everyone is different in this regard.
If you don’t have or want to spend the money for a course or private tutor, and if you are disciplined enough for total self-study, there are also books (available in the “Study Guides” section of most bookstores) and CDs you can purchase that will teach you the same tricks taught in the courses. If you decide to buy a book or CD and teach yourself, however, make sure you actually set aside time — ideally one to two hours — to study every single day for at least four weeks before the test day. Also be sure that you study in a quiet place so you can get used to the conditions you’ll be taking the test in before test day.
I’m aware that when submitting SAT scores to colleges, if you have taken the exam multiple times, you can send in your highest score for each section (say you got a 600 in math the first time and a 680 the second time but you got a 720 in reading the first time and a 680 in reading the second time, you could send in the 680 and 720 even though you got those scores on different examination dates). Is it the same for the ACT? Say, for example, I got a 30 in Math, 33 in English, 32 in Reading, and 26 in Science the first time for a composite score of 30 but then a 32 in Math, 31 in Science, 27 in English, and 29 in Reading the second time also for a composite score of 30. Would colleges accept each highest section score of the ACT as they do for the SAT?
You’re right that the SAT now offers a new Score Choice policy, which allows you to choose specific scores to be sent to colleges–but keep in mind that all scores from a particular test date must be sent. The ACT has long permitted you to pick the test date from which all the scores will be sent. Although the colleges will see all of the scores from whatever test dates you designate, many schools do often use the highest of each section.
So, if you feel like you want to retest, go ahead, since schools generally look at your top scores. Good luck and happy testing.
A general question about SATs that I have not seen answered is whether or not colleges will take the “best” scores from each section. I’ve heard that some colleges will and some will not. Moreover, I wonder if the difference between a score of 2200 and 2300 really counts in the long run. I am debating whether or not I should go through the long, grueling process once again just to increase my score 100 points or so, at the cost of 4 hours and $40.
First, congratulations on your SAT score. You should be very proud of yourself!
With regard to your first question, the answer varies from school to school. Most schools will take the higher of the two cumulative scores or take the highest score from each section, although some will average your scores from each section. Unfortunately, most schools don’t disclose on their web sites which method they use, so it would be a good idea to call the admissions offices of the schools to which you’re thinking about applying, in order to find out how they handle multiple SAT scores.
If you’re willing to study hard to retake the SAT, and you think you can raise your score by at least 50 points, then it is probably worth your while. If you’re not planning to devote a lot of time to studying, though, it might not be worthwhile, since your score might stay about the same or end up going down. (Note: The updated Score Choice offered by the SAT as of 2009 allows a student to send their best scores to schools.)
It’s also important to keep in mind that SAT scores are just one part of your college application. Admissions committees also evaluate grades, rigor of curriculum, essays, recommendations, and extracurriculars. So, if you already have a great GPA, extracurriculars, and recommendations, and you’re confident you can get into the school of your choice with a 2200, then it might not be worth retaking the SAT.
That said, don’t make this decision unless you are very confident in your qualifications. There’s a risk that the admission committee will be forced to choose between you and an otherwise identical candidate who has a higher SAT score. Plus, if you’re applying to really competitive colleges, it would probably be a good precaution to retake the SAT, just to be on the safe side…as every little aspect of your application could affect the admissions committee’s decision. But again, it’s only worth retaking the SAT if you’re willing to study hard and think you can improve by at least 50 points.
Finally, be sure to apply to a broad range of schools to keep your options open. After all, many qualified candidates are denied admission to their top-choice schools each year simply because there aren’t enough available spots. Luckily, you can get a great education at dozens of different schools, so long as you take advantage of the opportunities with which you are presented. Good luck!
So I have a high school GPA of 3.7, but for some reason I keep getting ridiculously low scores on my SAT and ACT. On my ACT, I got a 21, which is the higher grade between the ACT and SAT. My mom is spending thousands of dollars on prep courses, but none of them are helping me, in fact, they actually lowered my grade! I am a varsity cheerleader, did all of the high school musicals since 9th grade, I’m a competition ballroom dancer, and I’ve been doing ballet and tap since I can remember. Is this good enough to get into colleges like Connecticut College and Boston University? Or is my ACT score going to hinder that? I would not send in my scores, but I don’t think my dancing and GPA is good enough to pull through for me. Do I just need to settle with average colleges with people who got the same ACT score but much lower GPAs? Help!
Hmm. It could be that you may just happen to be a poor test-taker, which college admissions offices will take into account if the rest of your academic record is stellar. You may want to look into whether you may have a sort of “test-taking anxiety,” and if that’s the case, you could mention that in your college applications under the “extenuating circumstances” section(s).
Also, if you have the chance to take each test one more time, I highly suggest you do that–this time studying test-taking strategies instead of specific ACT or SAT strategies (sometimes prep courses focus on the subject matter more than specific test-taking strategies). Browse around on the Internet for information about test-taking best practices and test anxiety assistance. It’s a really common phenomenon among excellent students, so don’t worry too much about that! Good luck.
I’m a junior in high school and currently in the middle of SAT and AP tests. I was wondering when it says, ‘Do you want us to send your scores to a college?’, is it a good idea, as a junior, to send it to a college you are planning to apply to? Or can you wait and send them later?
Usually you get four free schools to send your scores to. If you have somewhat of a good idea some schools you want to apply to, you might as well send your scores there for now. If you wait till later, you’ll have to pay for them. (And you’ll have to pay for each school you send scores to after the first four schools anyway.)
Regardless, you’re in no way required to attend one of the four first schools you send your scores to, so don’t worry about that! Go ahead and send a few now – it can’t hurt.
I have taken the ACT with no writing, and received a 32. I will be retaking the test again, this time with writing. In the event that my score the second time around is lower, when I apply to colleges that require an ACT with writing, can I post 32? Once you have taken the ACT Writing once, can you take the higher of the scores, even if the higher was not with a writing test at the time?
No. The ACT sends all scores from a specific testing date. You can, however, choose which test date to send to schools. Check the ACT website for more information about scores.
Which is a worse situation: a low GPA and high SAT scores, or a high GPA and a low SAT scores? I would think the latter would be worse because grades are not standardized. I would suspect there would be more weight placed on SAT scores. Am I right?
Good analysis, but it doesn’t completely solve the equation. Yes, scores are standardized, but so are the tests, so they don’t fully measure every student’s capabilities perfectly. Therefore, a college won’t automatically discount low test scores, but often won’t accept students whose scores are below the posted minimum. Grades are a good indication of effort, ability, and achievement. The school’s rigor and the types of classes taken will be accounted for when the college reviews your transcripts. The college will hold more knowledge about your school and its curriculum than you may think. So, in short, both are very important. A low GPA is a problem, especially if grades are consistently low. A temporary drop in grades is often understandable, but low grades overall will reflect poorly on the student, even if test scores are high, as they may indicate a lack of effort. Your best bet is to raise both your grades and your test scores as much as you can, without forgetting about extracurriculars and a solid essay.
I recently took the SAT for the first time. I do not feel as though I did my best on this test. I was nervous and lacked confidence going into it. My GPA is not stellar, so I know it’s going to be difficult but not impossible to get into my school of choice. Is there any harm in sending my SAT score to that school? Should I wait to see my new score before I submit?
This depends on a few factors. Having a poor test experience is not unheard of, and sometimes students improve greatly when they take a test the second time. However, make sure you can retake the test before the application deadline. First and foremost, you should make the application deadline. Most schools will only look at your highest score, but all scores are reported to the school. If you have time to wait and retake the test before your application is due, it may be a good idea and also might ease your nerves. However, don’t wait until after the test to start preparing your application. The more time you spend preparing your essay and asking for recommendation letters, the better your chances will be of admission. Also, because your GPA is not as high as you’d like, focus on your extracurricular activities, too, and make sure you can compensate for your lower grades by showing that you’re a serious student with true ambitions toward a college degree and subsequent career. Don’t get discouraged, and remember: Check your application deadlines and make sure you have time to wait on a re-test. If you don’t have time, you can usually indicate that you plan to take the SAT again, even after the application deadline. Good luck!
Recently, I visited the University of Alabama at Birmingham and I absolutely love it. It’s only 4 hours away from my home, and I plan on attending. I know I meet all the requirements, but in order to get the scholarship I want I have to get a 28 on the ACT (or higher). I’m nervous. When I took the practice ACT in 10th grade, I made a 19. Any tips to boost my score? I take it next year.
It’s great that you’ve found a school you love. That gives you a concrete goal to strive toward, and it makes your standardize test scores mean much more than just a number. You’ve got some time to prepare, but the sooner you begin, the better. Visit your guidance counselor’s office for tips on area test prep courses. Your high school may offer after-school test prep programs, or you may need to find a private program. One good thing to determine, first, is whether you work more efficiently with a private tutor or in a structured class. In terms of test preparation, you can hire a tutor to work with you through practice tests, or you can take a course that strengthens your test-taking strategies. Your family, teachers, and counselors ought to be able to guide you in the right direction based on your specific strengths and learning styles. Do take several practice tests to become familiar with the styles of test questions. You can find practice test books online and in bookstores. The more you practice now, the better chance you have at achieving that score you need to fulfill your dream. Good luck! Stay focused on your goal, but also plan to apply to a few others schools besides UAB. All students find the admissions process more successful when they leave options open. Good luck!
I am graduating from high school with a 3.8 GPA and I was supposed to start college this fall term, but since I got rejection letters because of my low SAT scores I have decided to wait a term and study hard for my SAT. I will retake the test and apply for the Spring semester. What kinds of activities could I do in the meantime that will also help me get into the college of my choice?
Plenty of students wait a year or a semester after high school to begin college. What you do in that year or series of months is crucial, though, and you should use the time wisely. Consider your interests and passions. Will travel allow you to explore a passion for cultures or languages? Or, will an internship help you get hands-on experience with a career of interest? What you do in this time in between high school and college should be directly related to your future goals. Whatever you decide, make sure to leave plenty of time to study for the SAT and solicit tutoring if necessary. That way, you can raise your scores to a level that matches schools you want to attend. Good luck!
I just turned in my college application, but I forgot to fill out the retake option of the SAT test. Is it possible to take the test again and get a different score?
You can always register to take the test again, but whether that will affect your admissions decision depends on the deadline for applications and the date of the next possible test. If you plan to take the SAT and report a new score before the admissions deadline at your college of choice, call the admissions department and let them know you’re retaking the test. However, if the deadline is near and you’ve already submitted your current test score, your application will probably be assessed based on that score. Each school has different deadlines, so you’ll want to check directly with the school to find out if another SAT test is possible. If it is, go to the SAT website to register for a retake. Good luck!
Does is matter if I take the SAT if I plan to start in junior college and transfer later into a university?
Yes, you should go ahead and take the SAT test, because you will likely need test scores for admittance into a transfer college. The tests are designed to measure your abilities coming out of a high school curriculum, so taking them now is advisable. Besides, you should keep your options open for college admittance, and having the test scores will allow you to apply to a wider range of schools. Good luck!
Many colleges state that you only need to take the ACT or the SAT. If you take both, they usually say you only need to do well on one. How do they view a student who does very well on both? Does it matter?
Typically, it will only matter that you do well on one test. It’s great if you did well on both, and it shows that you are a strong tester, but it won’t likely put you at an advantage over students who did well on one standardized test. Instead, balance your application to show strengths no just in test scores but also in grades, extracurricular activities, and your writing sample. Schools look at a variety of factors when they decide who to admit. Strong test scores won’t ensure acceptance, but lower test scores won’t rule you out. Good luck!
Can I still send my first SAT scores to colleges even if I’m retaking it in the fall? I took my first SAT in May and got a 1280. Should I send it now and resend in the fall if my score improves? Or should I just wait to compare the two?
If your application is due before the date you’ll retake the test, you should go ahead and send the scores you have by the due date. However, if you have time to retake the test before your full application is due, retake it first and then complete your application. Schools require you to report all scores for the SAT, and the school will look at your highest scores from sub-sections of the test. Good luck!
Do I still have to take the ACT to apply to a school, even if I already have college experience?
It all depends on the requirements of the particular school to which you plan to apply. Check the admissions requirements on their website, and call the admissions office to ask. In some cases, you may not have to supply test scores, but this will be entirely up to the school. The best way to find out is to go directly to the source!
I have already taken the SAT once, and I have been accepted to my first choice college. I have been told I will get more money from the college if I retake and score higher on my SAT, however, I have also heard the opposite that there will be no change in the amount of scholarships they give me. Should I retake the SAT?
It’s time to consider the source. If you heard this as a rumor from fellow students or applicants, I wouldn’t act on it until you can verify the facts. If you were told this by the office of admissions or financial aid, then you can consider it valid and decide whether or not you want to sit for the test again. First and foremost, assess the accuracy of the information. Every school has its own policy when it comes to financial aid, so it will help you to ask this question directly of the school.
Will a score of 1980 get me into any schools like Berkeley, Davis, or Irvine? Or am I putting my hopes too high?
No single test score will get you into any school. Instead, committees look at your application as a whole. While having a strong score helps your chances, it doesn’t secure your spot. Grades, extracurriculars, essays and recommendation letters count too. You can find the average or median score for entering freshmen on each school’s website, but use this only as a guide to determine whether you fall in the range above the minimum. Focus on rounding out your application as a whole the best you can. Good luck!
I am a good student. I do my homework and turn in everything on time. I plays sports, I’m in clubs and am the secretary of two of them. I have community service hours and I have good grades. Will colleges accept me if I did poorly on my ACT and SAT? I don’t know my scores yet, but I’m worried that they won’t be high.
That’s a good question. It sounds like you are a student who works very hard, and your extracurriculars and grades probably show for it. Some schools do have minimum requirements for standardized test scores, while other schools treat the admission process more holistically and examine your student profile as a whole. A larger state university is more likely to have strict minimum guidelines for test scores simply because of the sheer number of applicants. Ideally, you should perform as well as you possibly can on these tests and assume they are an important part of your application. If you need to solicit help from a teacher, tutor, or parent, do so. You can also take practice tests and talk to a teacher about ways to improve reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, or whatever area of the test you feel may be weaker for you. Good luck, and stay focused and positive!
Does it matter where I take the ACT?
In short, no, it does not matter in regards to your scoring and its reporting. But, you should sign up to take the ACT somewhere in your area. The ACT website will allow you to search for test centers in your proximity. Choose one that’s convenient to you and your schedule, so that you can focus on studying and preparing rather than long distance travel. Good luck!
My son is a senior applying to colleges. He has a 3.38 GPA. He obtained a 26 on the ACT. A school out of state has been talking with him about a potential scholarship to play lacrosse. That school requires the SAT. We have signed him up for testing which is in two weeks. Any suggestions on how he should prepare for this test in such a short amount of time? Also, because he did above average on the ACT is there a good chance that he will do well on the SAT? Lastly, because he has taken the ACT, should schools requiring SAT accept the ACT for admission requirements in place of the SAT?
Congratulations to your son for his opportunities and achievements! To answer your questions, if a school requests the SAT, the ACT cannot be used to stand in place of the requested test. Thus, he will need to take the SAT if he wants the opportunity to earn a scholarship at this school. With the test two weeks away, the best way to prepare would be to take practice tests, particularly in the sections where there is a weakness. He can find free practice questions for the SAT online at this link. While there is no way to predict a score, if your son knows that he tests well and that he has practiced questions rigorously, he should go into the test with confidence. Test scores are important in undergraduate admissions, but grades and extracurricular activities are equally important, so the admission decision won’t come down to the SAT alone. Good luck to your son!
Hi Guru! I am a high school sophomore, have a 3.9 unweighted GPA and am planning on taking 7 AP classes. I currently have over 400 community service hours, babysit after school everyday and am an officer of Best Buddies. I am also involved in 3 other in-school clubs and a member of the marching band. I would like to apply to highly competitive schools, such as Brown, University of Chicago and Penn. However, my PSAT scores are low (178 or approx. 1780 on the SAT). What are my chances of being accepted? How much weight do SAT scores have in the admissions process?
Congratulations on your impressive accomplishments! It sounds like you’re doing all of the right things. I can’t tell you your chances of being accepted to any particular school. The SAT does carry significant weight. At most schools, the SAT and grades are the two most significant factors. Schools also look at essays, activities, recommendation letters and demonstrated interest. Don’t worry about your PSAT score as it’s the SAT and/or ACT score that will count and you can take those tests more than once. The PSAT is a great guide for preparing for the SAT.Best of luck and keep up the good work.
I realize I have a good SAT score (composite 2250), and you might be wondering why I am asking about taking the SAT again. However, I want to get into a highly selective school and some scholarships I am going for require above a 1500 on Critical Reading/Math. Even though I am studying hard for the SAT, I might actually get a lower score. Would this look bad to colleges? I know everyone says they only look at the higher scores of each section of your test, but they see the others too, right?
Good for you for your excellent work! Even though you have a good score, you are right — there can always be room for improvement.The short answer is that there is no specific RIGHT answer since each school has a different formula. Some colleges and universities will look at your best score from each section of the test â€“ even if theyâ€™re from different dates â€“ while others will look at your best composite score. And then some consider scores from every time youâ€™ve taken it, looking to see if thereâ€™s been improvement.But the schools realize you are human and sometimes scores do dip slightly. The best course is to take it again, if you wish to improve.Best of luck to you.
I just finished my junior year of high school and also got my SAT scores. I scored 540 on the critical reading but very low for math and writing. For math I earned a 420 and writing a 410 but this does not reflect on my academic capabilities at all. I earned a 4.3 GPA for my junior year and a cumulative GPA of 3.8 so far for all three years of high school. I take college prep classes and will be taking two AP classes for my senior year. Do I still have a good chance of getting into a good college. I am taking the SATs again this fall.
Wow, good for you on a stellar academic record. Each college looks for something different, but their decisions are mixed on several elements, including grades, activities and of course, tests.The good news is that your grades are excellent, and you still have time to take the SAT again. Some people suffer from “test anxiety,” which might be why you didn’t score as well as you would have liked. Having taken it once, you might feel for comfortable the second time.You also would likely benefit from some test prep. There are a number of free, online sources that can offer test tips and practice exams. That would be a great use of your summer to up your knowledge to feel more comfortable. Your school might offer a course as well, or can direct you to one nearby.Another option would be to take the SAT Subject Tests, which allow you to take tests that focus specifically on your areas of interest and success. A good score on them will further highlight the areas where you excel. Don’t let one poor testing day throw off your college plans! There are many ways to boost your scores, and remember, it’s just one component of your overall application picture.Good luck and keep up the good work!
I have taken the SAT twice now choosing different schools to send my scores to. Do the colleges that I sent my first SAT scores to get my second SAT scores too?
No, only the ones that you choose to send the scores to will see them. However, keep in mind that the most selective schools will require you send in ALL your scores.In addition, colleges look at scores differently. Some look at the scores from your best overall test day, and others will look at the best scores from individual parts of the exam, even if they were from separate days. For that reason, you might want to send all your scores to the colleges, if one day was significantly stronger in math, for example, and you are considering a math-oriented field.Good luck!
I was wondering if colleges will deny me because my ACT/SAT scores are low? I received an 18 on my ACTs and a 1260 on my SATs.I have a weighted GPA of almost a 3.6.
Thanks for touching base and good for you for thinking through all the aspects that concern colleges.Test scores are certainly a key aspect of college admissions, but only one piece. As you noted, they also look at your GPA and also consider your extracurriculars, essay, and those other intangibles that help them create the ideal class.However, since you have identified a potential weakness, have you considered taking the tests again? Many students are able to vastly improve their scores by attending a test prep class (check with your high school counselor) or even taking advantage of the many free resources available online that allow you to use sample tests and improve your technique.There are also a number of apps that can help you study and give you frequent refreshing. Check out a recent article on this site with some ideas.Again, certainly test scores are just one aspect that colleges consider, but you might feel more confident applying to colleges if you have done all you can to improve them. Good luck!
As I am approaching my senior year of high school, I seem to be struggling with my SAT score. I am currently an IB candidate with a 4.2 GPA, captain of the varsity volleyball team, vice president of our Best Buddies club and a member of our advanced orchestra. I have taken the SAT twice this year and was not pleased with my scores. I am trying to get into the University of Virginia this year, though don’t think I can qualify with such average SAT scores. Will my chances to get into a college such as UVA lessen if my SAT scores are only average?
It sounds like you’re doing all of the right things but that you may just happen to be a poor test-taker. Fortunately, college admissions offices will take this into account if the rest of your academic record is stellar, which it appears to be. If you have test-taking anxiety, you could mention it in your college applications under the “extenuating circumstances” section. It’s a really common phenomenon among excellent students, so don’t worry too much about that!
If you have the chance to take the test one more time, I suggest you do. This time, focus on your test-taking strategies instead of subject matter. Research test-taking best practices, and look for test anxiety assistance. Have you considered taking a prep course or working with a private SAT tutor to bring up your scores? They should be able to help you learn how to take the test.
Also, have you considered taking the ACT? The SAT places an emphasis on problem-solving and critical thinking, whereas the ACT is more content-based with an emphasis on what you learned in high school. Although universities and colleges on the coasts tend to favor SAT scores, schools usually accept either. Take the exam that caters to your strengths.
Finally, no single test score will get you into any school. Admissions committees look at grades, extracurriculars, essays and recommendation letters, too. Stay focused on your goal, but be sure to apply to a broad range of schools to keep your options open. Good luck!
I am a freshman in high school. I have seen some of my friends taking the PSAT already. I was wondering when I should take the SAT and PSAT. Another question that I have is regarding extracurricular activities. I am currently in math club, key interact club and coding club. Do I have to be an officer or leader in these groups to list them in my college apps?
It can be helpful to take the PSAT your freshman year, but it’s also pretty early. Only high school juniors are eligible for National Merit Scholarship Corporation awards based on their PSAT scores. Although it’s smart to prep and get a practice run or two in before your junior year if you’re aiming for one of the awards, you can wait until your sophomore year. Instead, spend your freshman year focusing on your schoolwork and developing your academic skills.
If you want to take the PSAT your freshman year, you certainly can, but don’t feel like you’re falling behind if you don’t. Here is a testing schedule that many students choose to follow:
- Take the PSAT as a junior. If you’re aiming for a National Merit Scholarship, prepare for the test. If not, there’s no need to prepare.
- Take the January SAT as a junior. Use winter break to prepare. Take one or two full-length practice tests so you know what to expect.
- Take the May or June SAT as a junior. Prep for this test, too, but even taking it just a second time will likely improve your score.
- Study hard during the summer, and take the October SAT as a senior. After taking it twice, you know what you need to work on during the summer. Work really hard to get a score you’re satisfied with. If you are still far from your target score, you have one more chance to take the November or December SAT as a senior.
In terms of your extracurricular activities, you’re ahead of the curve. Many students don’t join clubs or organizations until their sophomore or junior years. Colleges are looking for students who have shown a deep commitment to their activities, and if you stick with these clubs for the duration of your high school career, you’ll definitely have demonstrated that. Although you don’t have to have an elected position to list them on your college applications, you will want to demonstrate leadership skills, which you can do through a variety of ways: starting a project, leading an initiative or coordinate an event.
But honestly, because you’re still a freshman, you have plenty of time to demonstrate your commitment, maturity and leadership. Freshman year is a learning experience. Give yourself time to get adjusted to your new school before you take on too much.