College Admissions: SAT or the ACT

What is the difference between the SAT and ACT. This is first in a series comparing the two college admissions tests.

Hello Patchiers, [Patchians? that sounds too much like Patch-yinz].

I'm Phil McCaffrey, a local tutor and teacher who specializes in college prep. Welcome to my Patch Education Blog.

Many students and parents have asked me about taking the ACT verses the SAT. This is the first in a series of blogs about the two tests. 

In years past mid-western students mostly took the ACT out of Des Moines, Iowa. East coast and west coast students took the SAT out of New York. Millions of high school students take both tests. They picked which test to take based on where the college was located. If you applied to The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, you took the SAT. But if you applied to Washington Unveristy in St. Louis, you took the ACT.

The SAT was the dominate player in the test prep market for 100 years with more students registering and taking the SAT. But last year a strange thing occured, more students took the ACT than the SAT. There are several reasons. 

The explosion in college admissions is the primary reason. More students apply to college now than ever before. And more students apply to multiple schools. It is not unusual for a student to apply to a dozen schools. Students want, no, need an edge to get in to their top choice. So many have decided to take both tests and see which one makes them a better candidate.

East coast schools have started treating the ACT as the SAT's equal. Not too far from Pittsburgh is the SAT/ACT border. Students in Ohio take the ACT, mostly. Here students take the SAT. Since schools take both, students do as well.

The ACT has a reputation as being "easier" than the SAT. But easier is a relative term. What is easier to one student is not to another. There are structure and content differences, but one is not easier than the other across the board. I'll blog on the structure and how to decide which to take.

Because of the nasty reputation of the SAT, I think more students in traditional SAT turf are turning to the ACT as an option. Whereas the traditional ACT areas are quite pleased with their more "friendly" test and say no thank you to the SAT.

Up next: Structure of the tests 

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Tara Smith November 20, 2012 at 05:24 PM
great blog! Can't wait to check out more :) One thing if I may point out too, for those worried about not being able to afford it. Talk to your guidance counselor as you may be able to get a fee waiver.
Phil McCaffrey November 22, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Thank you Tara, from what I have heard fee waivers are tied to free and reduced lunch. But you are 100% correct, talk to your guidance counselor and be sure to visit: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/testing/waivers
NE12Ukid November 22, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I took SAT back in the dark ages, did quite well, but then was recruited by a school that required ACT, so had to take another test. The college paid for my ACT testing and my $25 admissions fee. I was not a free lunch student, might have qualified but my parents preferred not to ask for such assistance, if it even was offered back in the 60s.


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