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Should Your Student Take the SAT or ACT?

High School Student

Over 20 million students attended universities and colleges in the U.S. last fall, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This represents a 5.1 million student enrollment increase between 2000 and 2017. With the growing number of students enrolling in college programs comes more and more applications. This makes getting into college increasingly competitive.

Along with your child's GPA, extracurricular activities, work/life experiences, awards, achievements, volunteerism and everything else they pack into their application profile, they also need standout admission test scores.

Before you sign your high school student up for an admissions test, you need to ask one question, "Will they take the SAT or ACT?" If your family is unsure about which test is best, take a look at the need-to-know facts about the SAT and ACT.

Accepted Tests

Gone are the days when every college wanted SAT scores and only some accepted the ACTs. You may remember taking the SATs in your high school days. Chances are that the ACTs never even factored into your decision making process. Decades ago, the ACTs weren't the standard. While some colleges were open to reviewing ACT scores, taking only this test may have limited your options.

The college admissions process has changed since those days, especially when it comes to accepted test scores. Today both the SATs and ACTs are widely accepted in all U.S. colleges. This means that your child won't have to take both tests. It also means that they should choose the test that feels right for them. Instead of thinking that colleges prefer one over the other, encourage your child to select the one that will bring them the most success.

Along with wide acceptance among colleges across the U.S., both tests are also used for merit-based scholarships. Don't assume that taking one over the other will or won't qualify your student for one of these financial awards.

Practice Assessments

If you're wondering how your child will know which test to take, you won't find a simple yes/no answer. One of the best predictors of standardized test success is a pretest. The PSATs or a pre-ACT test provides your child with a few different benefits.

To start with, your child will get the chance to experience the test, without the pressure of submitting it to colleges. Your student can tell you which test they felt more comfortable taking, making a step toward choosing the SAT versus the ACT.

Along with comfort level, you can also look at your child's scores. If they scored evenly across both tests, they'll have some decision-making on a personal level to do. But if they excel at one, and get so-so scores on the other, you'll both have a better idea as to which one is the right choice.

Test Content

The SAT and ACT both test what your student has learned in high school. The SAT also evaluates what your child needs to succeed in college. This makes prep for the tests absolutely essential. Even though they both measure knowledge of the information that your child supposedly has been learning, chances are that they'll need some reinforcement.

Both of the college entrance exams test your student in math and reading. The SAT also has a section for writing and language and an optional essay section. The ACT includes English and science reasoning, as well as an optional essay. The science reasoning section doesn't test specific scientific knowledge. Instead, it evaluates the student's critical thinking skills.

When it comes to math, both tests cover arithmetic, algebra I and II, geometry, and trigonometry. The SAT also includes questions on data analysis. The ACT allows test-takers to use a calculator for all math sections, while the SAT does have some questions that students must solve without the use of one.

Does your child need help prepping for their college entrance exam? IQ Learning can help.