Why is the ACT/SAT So Important?
You hear about the ACT and SAT exams so much during your high school years that you may be wondering “What is the big deal?” However, the ACT/SAT are so important to your education, during high school and college, as well as potentially affecting your future career. Why is the SAT important? Why is the ACT important too?
Here are just three reasons why the ACT and SAT are such a big deal:
A Must for College Applications
It’s no secret that most college applications require you to submit your SAT or ACT score (or both if you choose to), making taking the exam an absolute must. In addition to it being a requirement, colleges and universities receive thousands of applications every year. Some schools receive over 75,000! The scores on the SAT and ACT allow them to narrow down the playing field and make decisions on acceptance.
This also makes your individual score extremely important. The schools that are receiving 75,000 applications don’t have time to read every document, transcript, or essay. A low score may automatically count against you.
Qualify for Scholarships
In addition to your college applications, your SAT and ACT scores can be used to apply to more scholarships. These are sometimes merit based scholarships, granted directly from your choice of college during the application process. Others may be from local, state, or regional programs where your grades, academic achievements, and score affect your eligibility.
You may also want to take the PSAT if you are a junior in high school. You are automatically entered into the scholarship program from National Merit to potentially be a National Merit Scholar, the hosts of the practice exam. Make sure to check scholarship databases and with your high school guidance counselor to see if there are any other awards you may qualify for with your SAT, PSAT, PreACT, or ACT score.
Goes Beyond the GPA
Sadly, after your first two years, it can be rather difficult to change or boost your GPA, especially if it was lower than you would have liked during your freshman and sophomore years. Even with good grades in the final years of high school, the damage may have been done and often, your senior year classes doesn’t have a factor into the GPA the colleges see.
Your ACT or SAT score offers you another opportunity to show the college or university how far you’ve come academically, even if your GPA is a little lower than expect or want. It’s your opportunity to show you can work under pressure, study hard, and perform well. This is a major reason why you should study and be prepared on test day.
Pros & Cons of ACT vs. SAT
You know why taking the ACT/SAT are so important. But some questions still remain. Is the ACT better than the SAT? Which one should you take? Should you take both, the ACT and the SAT?
Everybody has their own opinion on which one standardized test is better. But the truth is, neither one is better than the other in all aspects. Both are recognized by universities across the U.S. However, they are set up differently. Some students do better in one test than the other depending on their academic strengths.
Which one is better for you will depend on your academic inclinations and your personal preference. Understanding the pros & cons of ACT vs. SAT will help you make a more informed decision.
- Marks are not deducted for wrong answers – This is a huge relief to students who are not sure whether to take a chance and answer the question or omit it. Losing marks for wrong answers can be worse than getting 0 marks for unanswered questions.
- The essay is an optional – This is one of the more welcome features of the ACT. Students can choose whether or not to attempt writing the essay. The decision is made easier by the fact that the essay score is not factored in when calculating the composite score. If your shortlisted colleges don’t require the ACT essay or you’re not confident of your writing skills, you can skip that section.
- More questions and less time to answer them: This is a major con of the ACT. There are too many questions and not enough time to answer them all. There’s been much talk about this and students are generally aware about being pressed for time. Most spend months doing several practice tests while trying to better their time. Still, it’s a huge drawback for students who need more time to process information.
- The Science test can be confusing – Most test-takers find the Science test very challenging. The reason for this is the Science questions are rarely based on what they’ve learnt. Instead it focuses around aspects such as data trends and relationships. Students often end up leaving this section unanswered even though the marks are factored into the final score.
- Shorter sections – The shorter sections of the revised SAT come as a huge relief to students, especially to those with shorter attention spans. Tackling shorter sections doesn’t seem as overwhelming.
- Fewer questions – Another welcome feature of the revised SAT is that it has fewer questions than before. However, this comes at a price. The general consensus is that the fewer questions are far more challenging.
- Lower-level math – The revised SAT math questions include fundamental trigonometry along with the earlier general concepts in algebra and geometry. The level of difficulty of math questions is lower than the ACT math questions.
- Reading Passages are more complex – The reading passages have always been the most dreaded feature of the old SAT test. Unfortunately, this is one thing that has remained the same in the revised SAT too. The higher-level vocabulary along with the nuanced ideas make this a section that most students struggle with.
- Questions are more complicated – In the revised SAT, the questions have too many parts and are framed in a way that can make than confusing. Just trying to understand what the question is asking can eat into your already-right test time. The questions in the calculator-free section brings even more challenges.
So… Back to the Question – Which Test Should You Take?
It’s important to explore both tests in greater depth before making your decision. Start your research well in advance. Read up on the features of both tests. And most important of all, take practice SAT and ACT tests so you can compare them for yourself. As we said earlier, each test plays to a certain set of strengths. That means the SAT may work better for some students while the ACT may be the better option for others. It’s only by taking both tests can you compare and decide which one is better for you.
When you do the practice tests, pay attention to the time spent on answer the questions as well as the type of questions asked. Which one do you think plays to your strengths? Which one did you perform better in? Did you manage to finish the test on time?
Once you’ve figured out which test to take, you can start focusing all your energy on preparing for that test. Answering practice tests is the single best way to prepare for the SAT or ACT.
Should You Take Both Tests?
Many students decide to hedge their bets and answer both tests. This may or may not be a good idea. Before you sign up for both tests, make sure you understand the pros and cons of taking both the ACT and SAT.
Studying and taking the ACT or SAT exams can be an extremely daunting task. However, it’s good to remember that they are extremely important to your future. Your colleges will look to them during the early application process to see if you’re a strong fit at their school. If you feel you could improve upon the score after your first attempt, try to retake the exam after more practice. A high ACT or SAT score will pay you back!
Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!