# Understanding the SAT and ACT Exams

by January 9, 2014

onCollege admissions offices require an applicant to submit either an SAT or ACT score to be considered for admission. It is crucial to do well on these exams because colleges and universities value these test results to the same, if not to a greater extent, as GPA scores. It is important to learn about each individual test to determine which test is a better fit for you and will give you the best chance for success.

## SAT Schedule, Section & Scoring

The SAT is the nation’s most widely used college entrance exam. Nearly two million students take the exam annually. Each section of the SAT (critical reading, mathematics, and writing) is scored on a 200 to 800 point scale, for a possible total of 2400. The test scores become available online two week after taking them. The exam is offered seven times throughout the year in the following months: October, November, December, January, March, May, and June. For a complete list of registration deadlines, please visit: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/calenfees.html.

## The SAT has 10 required sections:

A 25-minute essay

Six 25-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)

Two 20-minute sections (mathematics, critical reading and writing)

A 10-minute multiple-choice writing section

Total test time: 3 hours and 45 minutes

## The ACT Exam’s Increasing Popularity

High school students also have the option of taking the ACT. All four-year colleges and universities now accept this exam. The ACT is a newer test, but has been growing in popularity amongst student test takers. **High school students in Illinois, Colorado, and Michigan are now required to take the exam.** Each section of the ACT is scored on a 1 to 36 point scale. The reported score is an average of all four or five sections, rounded to the nearest whole number. The test scores become available online two week after taking them. The exam is offered six times throughout the year in the following months: September, October, December, February, April, and June. For a complete list of registration deadlines, please visit: http://www.actstudent.org/regist/dates.html.

The ACT has 4 required sections and an optional writing section:

The Writing test is a 30-minute essay

The English test is 45-minutes with 75-questions

The Mathematics test is 60 minutes with 60-questions

The Reading Test is 35-minutes with 40-questions

The Science Test is 35-minutes with 40-questions

Total test time: 3 hours and 25 minutes

## The Importance of GPAs & Letters of Recommendation

Admissions committees understand that the SAT and ACT are challenging tests. It wouldn’t be fair to evaluate an applicant solely on a four-hour exam. That is why they also place significant emphasis on a student’s GPA and letters of recommendation. These exams standardize test taking for all applicants, but don’t provide the entire picture. It is important to do well on these standardized tests, but also to be a well-rounded student.

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