In March 2016, a newly-revamped SAT exam was released. Its release forces students to face a tough question: should they attempt the new SAT or take the ACT, which has remained pretty much the same for many years? Experts say the new SAT is more straightforward, and now more similar to the ACT in format and subject matter. Keeping in mind that a 1600 score on the new SAT is the same as a 36 on the ACT, there are still some important points to consider before deciding which to take.
The new SAT is returning to its original 400-1600 point scale. It has eliminated the wrong answer penalty (1/4 of a point deducted for incorrect answers). Like the ACT, the new SAT’s essay is now optional; unlike the ACT, there is no Science section. Many changes have been made in the different sections of the new SAT, including the removal of the Vocabulary questions
The new SAT Reading section now includes longer passages, and does not contain sentence completions or short passages, making it more similar to the ACT Reading section. Unlike the ACT, its questions are now in sequential order. While the ACT focuses more on reading comprehension, the new SAT focuses on analyzing specific concepts and understanding how the authors construct their arguments. The new SAT Reading portion consists of 52 questions in 65 minutes, while the ACT Reading portion consists of 40 questions in 35 minutes.
The new SAT Writing section utilizes the same passage-based format as the ACT English section, and includes more grammatical concepts such as punctuation. It is important to note that the ACT asks almost twice as many questions. The SAT Writing portion consists of 44 questions in 35 minutes and the ACT English portion consists of 75 questions in 45 minutes.
The new SAT Math section has been redesigned to be more straightforward and to focus on math taught in high school, with a heavy emphasis on algebra and data analysis. The ACT Math section includes far more geometry and trigonometry, and does not provide formulas like the SAT does. The new SAT allows more time for the Math section, but the questions are more challenging. It includes both a calculator and a no-calculator portion. The ACT Math section is all multiple choice, and allows use of a calculator throughout the section. The new SAT Math portion consists of 20 no-calculator questions in 25 minutes plus 38 calculator questions in 55 minutes, and the ACT Math portion contains 60 questions in 60 minutes.
The Essay section is similar on both exams. Students are given about the same amount of time and the writing on both is optional. In the new SAT, you must evaluate an argument, while on the ACT, you must come up with your own argument and support it. It is important to find out whether or not your colleges require the Essay portion before preparing for the test. The new SAT allows 50 minutes to answer one prompt, while the ACT allows 40 minutes to answer one prompt.
So which test is best for you? The SAT is still a critical thinking test, with no penalty for incorrect answers, and while many consider it to be the easier of the two, since they are both graded on a curve, it is important to pick the one that will give you the strongest competitive edge. If you are able to stay focused for longer periods of time and work at a fast pace, the ACT might be your best bet. There is more practice material available for it and its content is presented in a consistent manner. If you are a slower test-taker, the new SAT may be a better option, as it is far less time intensive and allows more time per question. It also emphasizes creative thinking over memorizing content. To decide which test to take, obtain a copy of both exams and examine the rules, format, and questions in depth. Once you have decided which would be a better fit, start preparing as early as possible for the exam. Advance preparation will earn optimum scores.