Standardized Testing For American Schools: ACT vs SAT

Standardized testing is something relatively foreign for Canadian student athletes. Besides the EQAO testing that occurs in Grade 9 and the Literacy Test in Grade 10, there are no other mandatory testing requirements to attend a Canadian university or college. However, to attend a post secondary institution in the United States you must complete either the ACT or SAT. You may have heard of these tests before, but don’t know much about them, how to write them, when to write them, etc. Let’s go through and take a look at the ACT vs the SAT.

The ACT

The American College Test (ACT), is a standardized test used by American colleges and universities for admissions and merit based scholarships. The test consists of 4 mandatory subject components, English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning respectively. The test also offers an optional essay component that participants may choose to write. Your ACT score is recorded on a sliding scale ranging from 1-36. 

The SAT

Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), is a standardized test used by American colleges and universities for admissions and merit based scholarships. The test consists of 3 mandatory subject components, Math, Reading, and Writing. Similarly to the ACT, the test also offers an optional essay component that participants may choose to write. The SAT is scored on a sliding scale that ranges from 400-1600.

ACT vs SAT Breakdown

Aspect of Test

SAT

ACT

Time to Write the Test

3 hours (without essay)

3 hours, 50 minutes 

(with essay)

2 hours, 55 minutes 

(without essay)

3 hours, 40 minutes 

(with essay)

Reading Component

5 Reading Passages to Answer

4 Reading Passages To Answer

Science Component

N/A

1 science section testing your critical thinking skills

Math Component

Arithmetic

Algebra I & II

Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis

Arithmetic

Algebra I & II

Geometry, Trigonometry, and Probability & Statistics

Calculator Policy

Some sections you are not allowed to use a calculator

You are allowed a calculator for every question

Essays

The essay will test your comprehension of a source text.

The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.

Fees

$95 ($111 with essay)

$150 ($166.50 with essay)


What Does My Score Mean?

Whether it be the SAT or ACT, both tests are on sliding scales that correspond with your cumulative GPA. The combination of your GPA and test scores is what institutions look at for admissions and scholarship. Higher test scores can help counter a lower GPA in terms of the sliding scale but it should be noted that everything does get taken into consideration so you should not bank solely on your GPA or test scores. 

Where and When To Write

Lots of major cities in each province have designated testing centres. There are typically over 10 different locations across each province that will be hosting a test writing session. In terms of when to write, there are typically 8-10 different dates in a year to write the test. We suggest getting the testing done sooner rather than later so you are not scrambling in the springtime! There is no penalty for writing the ACT or SAT and then going to a Canadian school!

What’s The Best Test For Me?

This is the million dollar question that every student wants to know, and honestly, there’s no right answer. The best test for you is the one you feel most comfortable with. If you excel in sciences, the ACT may be a better path. If you do better with literacy, the SAT may be better. Both tests are equally as challenging and will test your knowledge equally. The best way to know what is best for you is to practice beforehand! There are tons of practice ACT and SAT tests out there for free that are great to help prepare you for the test. Ask your guidance counsellors for practice tests - lots of schools have the ability to obtain practice tests for you to write. 

Whether it be the SAT or the ACT, preparation and research needs to be done in order to be prepared. Being successful in these tests can allow you to obtain scholarship and entry into your desired institution much easier. Seek help where you need it, do your homework on the tests, and when the time comes, knock it out of the park.