are two major college entrance examinations administered in
the United States today: the SAT and the ACT. Standardized
tests like the SAT and ACT are designed to allow college admissions
officers to judge all students by a common measurement. Scores
on these tests can compensate for differences in high school
curriculum, grade inflation, and quality of teaching. In addition,
they serve as a reliable predictor of how you will perform
academically in your freshman year of college.
The SAT is the most widely taken college entrance examination.
It is designed to test your skill level in math, vocabulary,
and reading comprehension. The test is divided into seven
sections: 3 math, 3 verbal, and 1 experimental section. The
math and verbal sections each have their own distinct question
types, including quantitative comparisons, sentence completions,
grid-ins, and more. The experimental section, used by the
test developer to try out new questions, is not scored and
can be either math or verbal. You will not know which section
is scored on scale of 200-800 for both the math and verbal
sections. The College Board sets the average for all test
takers at 500 for each. A perfect score on the SAT is 1600.
However, in recent years, fewer than 20 percent of all test
takers achieve a math score of 600 or better. Fewer than 10
percent score higher than 600 on the verbal section.
The American College Testing Assessment (ACT) is designed
to test your skill levels in English, math, reading, and science
reasoning. On the test, you will have 2 hours and 55 minutes
to complete a variety of multiple choice questions divided
into four sections—one for each tested subject area. The English,
reading, and science sections each include several reading
passages with anywhere from 5 to 15 questions per passage.
The math section includes 60 questions—each with 5 possible
actually receive 12 separate scores on the ACT: 1 composite,
4 subject scores, and 7 subscores. However the composite—or
scaled—score is the most important. It ranges from 1-36. Nearly
half of all test takers fall in the 17-23 range.
Until recently, the ACT was required by colleges in the Midwest,
while the SAT was the test of choice for schools in the Northeast
and on both coasts. Now, however, most schools accept both.
This increased acceptance of both exams gives students a strategic
advantage. The ACT is a content-based test, whereas the SAT
tests critical thinking and problem solving skills. Depending
on your particular strengths and weaknesses, you may perform
significantly better on one test than the other. Regardless,
you should check with each of your target schools before taking
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