The SAT is the better option

February 14, 2019 — by Kaylene Morrison

The purpose of standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT is to assess a person’s intelligence and skills so that colleges are more objectively able to pick the students mostly likely to succeed in their highly challenging programs. Consequently, high schoolers should take the test that will allow them to achieve a score that will reflect the full capacity of their abilities: the SAT.

The SAT enables the achievement of a higher score by allowing more time per question, while the ACT does not allow enough time to thoroughly consider all answer choices, according to Study Point and Prep Scholar.

In addition, the SAT math section also allows for a higher probability of guessing correctly. If students are unsure how to solve a problem, guessing on the ACT will result in only a 20 percent chance of choosing the correct answer, whereas guessing on the SAT will result in a 25 percent chance. Additionally, the SAT math section is more conceptual rather than based on rote memorization.

Unlike the ACT, the SAT booklet provides a list of formulas and diagrams, with surface area and volume formulas for objects such as cones, spheres and cylinders. The SAT also contains a no-calculator section which requires a conceptual understanding of math, preventing the possibility of making a calculator mistake and allowing those who aren’t particularly adept at manipulating numbers to succeed.

Also, the content in the SAT math section more closely aligns with the Algebra II curriculum, and contains significantly less Geometry. The ACT also tests concepts that are not included in the SAT, such as matrices, which are taught in Precalculus.

Those who take the ACT after taking Algebra II, primarily juniors enrolled in Precalculus who take the ACT in the fall, will have to study significantly more in order to relearn Geometry and self-teach themselves material taught in Precalculus. Taking the SAT allows these juniors to succeed with less studying and not regret their performance on that long-ago sixth-grade math placement test.

The SAT reading section is also much easier than the ACT reading section because it contains evidence-based questions. Evidence based questions require test takers to choose the best passage which provides evidence for the answer to the previous question. This allow test takers to confirm that their answer to the previous question is correct, increasing the probability that they answered both questions correctly. It also aids test takers in finding the answer to the previous question if at first they were unsure.

Additionally, while the ACT essay requires writers to be knowledgeable on the topic of the essay, the SAT is entirely skill based. The ACT essay presents writers with a prompt that includes a controversial topic and multiple perspectives on that topic. The writer is instructed to write an essay that fully or partially supports one of these perspectives. They are provided with no information besides a single paragraph which explains the topic. Consequently, if writers are unfamiliar with a topic, or do not feel strongly that one perspective is superior to another, this can greatly affect their ability to write the essay.

In contrast, the SAT essay provides readers with an argumentative piece, including speeches, magazine articles and excerpts from books. Students must analyze the persuasive techniques the author uses in order to build an effective argument. This requires no prior knowledge on the topic, and therefore writers’ scores are solely based on their reading comprehension skills and ability to effectively analyze writing.

Students who have yet to take a standardized test must start seriously considering which test they will take. These students should begin preparing for the test that will allow them to best accomplish their goals: the SAT.