SAT/ACT Information

  • Almost all colleges accept each test equally. As always, check with individual colleges to see which test they require and accept. Students should use the free practice test and simulate the test conditions as much as possible. Some colleges are trying to de-emphasize these tests (called “test-optional”). Again, you should have taken the PLAN and the PSAT as practice for these exams.

    Competitive schools may require the SAT Subject Tests. These are subject tests that allow college applicants to highlight their understanding of various subjects.

    SAT/ACT should be taken at least once in the Spring, Junior year, and re-taken in the Fall of Senior year. Statistics show improvement between first and second testing is the largest, on average. You can take them as many times as you want, but don’t place too much emphasis on these tests. They are the only ways that colleges can compare high school students on the same measure. There are many other factors that colleges look at when making a decision to accept a student.









    The new SAT will require similar skills and test similar content to that of the ACT and current SAT.  Many of the changes to the new SAT's format will make it look a lot like the ACT, but the SAT will retain its focus as an aptitude test.  Among the biggest changes to the SAT are a sharper focus on critical-thinking, an emphasis on real-world problems, a new scoring system, and an overhaul of the essay section.  Overall, the redesigned SAT will place a bigger emphasis on problem-solving and understanding content.  Comparatively, the ACT will remain more of an achievement test, requiring a broad knowledge of many concepts, as well as considerable speed and endurance.

    Format & Length

    5 long sections (comprising 3 "tests and an optional essay):

    ·         Writing & language; reading; 2 math; essay

    ·         Questions have 4 answer choices

    ·         Total testing time: 3 hrs, 50 mins (with essay)

    5 long sections (comprising 4 "tests" and an optional essay0:

    ·         English; math; reading; science; writing (optional essay)

    ·         Most questions have 4 answer choices (math has 5)

    ·         Total testing time: 3 hrs, 25 mins (with essay)


    Combined score: 400-1600

    ·         Evidence-based reading and writing: 200-800; math: 200-800

    ·         Essay score reported separately

    ·         "Cross-test scores" report performance on science and history/social studies across entire test

    ·         No deduction for incorrect answers

    Composite score: 1-36 (average of 4 tests)

    ·         English: 1-36; math: 1-36; reading: 1-36; science: 1-36

    ·         Writing score not factored into composite score

    ·         Combined English/Writing score provided separately: 1-36

    ·         No deduction for incorrect answers



    Revise and edit a piece of writing for logical structure and effective rhetoric

    ·         Standard English grammar and usage

    ·         Punctuation

    ·         logical structure

    ·         effective rhetoric

    ·         includes informational graphics

    Revise and edit a piece of writing for logical structure and effective rhetoric

    ·         Standard English grammar and usage

    ·         Punctuation

    ·         logical structure

    ·         effective rhetoric

    ·         commonly confused words


    Pre-Algebra through basic Trigonometry

    ·         Strong emphasis on Algebra

    Calculator prohibited on one section

    12 grid-in questions (no answer choices)

    1 extended thinking question (4 pints)

    Pre-Algebra through basic Trigonometry

    ·         math tested in straightforwardly

    ·         extensive range of concepts tested

    ·         emphasis on word problems

    ·         formulas not provided


    Vocabulary de-emphasized


    4 long passages and 1 paired passage

    ·         2 passages include diagrams/charts

    ·         1 passage from U.S. "founding document"

    4 long passages

    ·         very little emphasis on vocabulary

    ·         straightforward questions that require close reading of passage

    ·         order of questions is random

    ·         less time per question


    The new SAT doesn't not have a stand-alone Science section, but Science questions will be included throughout the math, reading and writing & language tests

    40 questions distributed over 7 passages

    ·         Emphasis on charts, diagrams, etc.

    ·         Science is a reasoning test - rarely requires prior science knowledge


     50 minutes, always the last section

    ·         Analyze a passage and evaluate author's reasoning and rhetoric

    ·         Students' opinions discouraged

    ·         Essay is scored on 2-8 scale on three traits (reading, analysis, and writing)

    30 minutes, always the last test section

    ·         Narrow topic "relevant" to high school students

    ·         Demands a more structured response

    ·         Optional, but required by most schools