ACT vs. SAT FAQs

Picking between the SAT and ACT can be one of the most daunting and stressful parts of the test prep process.  Even though the two tests are fairly similar, there are key differences that may make students better equipped for success on the SAT or ACT.  Since colleges and universities accept both, selecting the right test is an important first step to achieve some great SAT or ACT scores.  

 

What's the biggest difference between the SAT and ACT?

The biggest difference between the SAT and ACT is the pacing of the test.  The ACT is a faster-paced assessment test that asks students to solve straight-forward problems quickly, and the SAT is a slower-paced reasoning tests that requires students to solve more complex problems.  While both tests run the exact same amount of time (2 hours and 55 minutes for each), the ACT has 215 questions compared to just 154 for the SAT - that's 40% more questions!  On average, students have an extra 20 seconds per problem on the SAT compared with ACT.

In general, students who read and work quickly are more comfortable with the pacing of the ACT, while those who are slower readers may never be able to keep up with the pace of the ACT no matter how much they prep.  As a result, slower readers or students who like time to carefully think and work through the steps to more complex problems usually feel more at home on the SAT. 

Taking a practice SAT and a practice ACT is the best way to determine which test's pacing will be a fit for you.  After completing the practice tests, most students will have a preference and will prefer the SAT or ACT.  And for any students who is indifferent, there are many more important differences between the tests that can make students a better fit for the SAT or ACT.   We will go into these differences as we discuss the specific sections below.               

 

What the difference between the SAT Reading and ACT Reading sections?

 

While both the SAT Reading Test and ACT Reading Test technically test a student's reading comprehension ability, the skills required to succeed on the SAT Reading and ACT Reading are far different.  The reason behind this difference boils down to two major factors: pacing and passage complexity.

 

SAT test takers face a 65-minute Reading Test that features 5 long passages and 52 questions.  ACT test takers must work through a 35-minute Reading Test that features 4 long passages and 40 questions.  That breaks down to 13 minutes per passage on the SAT and only 8 minutes and 45 seconds per passage on the ACT.  Passages on the SAT are more complex and require a higher level of reading comprehension skills and vocabulary.  At times on the SAT, students may be confused as to what the passage is even discussing.  On the other hand, ACT passages are far easier to read, but students must read the passage more quickly and skim effectively when answering questions. 

 

While the ACT passages are faster, the SAT passages tend to ask students to read deeper.  Most SAT questions will direct students to the lines where they should be reading, so the challenge is to read the more complex passages and decipher what the meaning is and where the answer to the question is hidden.  Oppositely, the ACT passages are quite literal and ask students to find where in the passage an answer is located, often without the assistance of any line references.  Correct answers on the ACT typically contain the exact words in the passage and are obvious once the students finds the right evidence in the passage.                      

 

How many hours in sessions will my student need?

The honest answer is that it depends.  The average student at ScoreBuilder Test Prep will need between 10 and 15 hours in weekly tutoring sessions.  With that being said, the number of hours in sessions may vary based on where you start and what your goals are.  It is difficult to accurately predict how many sessions a student will need without more details.  Have you taken the ACT before or are you just starting?  Did you take a prep class already?  What are your goals for the SAT...are you just looking to improve or do you want to aim for a near perfect score?  All of these questions and many more will affect how much tutoring a student will need.  By getting the answers to these questions in a quick phone consultation and having students take a diagnostic test, we will be able to give you more specific advice and recommend a tutoring schedule and plan that will work for you.  

Most students who start with us from square one for SAT or ACT Prep will work with us for 3 to 5 months and will need between 10 to 15 hours in tutoring session.  Before the first test, we will spend 6 to 10 hours in sessions covering the major content, strategies, and test-taking tips that students will need for success.  The vast majority of students will take the SAT or ACT two or even three times.  For students who are re-taking the SAT or ACT, we will continue with sessions, but the tutoring will now focus more precisely on the areas of weakness or higher-level topics that are necessary to see the scores continue to increase.

 

Do you guarantee a score increase?

 

While we are very proud of the average score increase that our students achieve, we do not guarantee any score improvement.  Improving on the SAT or ACT is a team effort: tutors need to give top notch instruction and students needs to commit time both in and outside of sessions to studying and reviewing.  If a student does not put in the time outside of sessions on homework and practice tests, he or she will likely not see much improvement.  If a student has bad testing anxiety or mismanages time and underperforms on test day, we as tutors cannot control that.  As tutors, we are only half of the equation for success, so we cannot offer any score improvement guarantee.  What we can guarantee, however, is that we will do everything in our power to best prepare our students for success on test day.      

Do you have any other questions that we did not answer here?   Contact us and ask away. 

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