On one level the SAT and ACT are indeed different.

Some differences are obvious. The SAT is a math, verbal (language arts), and writing test while the ACT includes math, verbal (language arts), writing, social studies, and science questions. SAT test-takers are penalized .25 points for guessing. There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT.

Other differences are not so obvious. The SAT is an aptitude, critical thinking test in the same family as the IQ test. The ACT is an achievement, or knowledge-based test, in the same family as a Stanford Achievement or Iowa Basics test. What this means, is that test takers must spend a lot more time in SAT preparation than in ACT preparation.

Students will not increase their IQ scores in six weeks nor will they increase their SAT scores in six weeks. Not so with the ACT. ACT scores, based on knowledge acquisition more than critical problem solving, can be increased with the most basic review hours before the exam.

There are more similarities, however, than differences between the exams. Both are predominately math and verbal exams. The math on the ACT is somewhat more difficult, but it often is presented in math problem format (like the SAT). The verbal section is very similar—with a huge emphasis on critical reading and vocabulary. Even the ACT writing section is similar (although students will need to include a counter argument in the ACT to get a high score).

But the greatest similarity is in stress reduction. Stress reduction (in my book stress reduction is alleviated through Bible memory verse memorization and Scripture prayers) will increase immensely SAT and ACT scores.

In summary then, here are my conclusions:

  1. The ACT and SAT are very fine tests in so far as they predict fairly well the success of a college freshman.
  2. Home school students in particular are doing well on both. Students should probably take both the SAT and ACT.
  3. Most colleges prefer and some even require the SAT.
    4. The coaching resistant, critical thinking SAT requires a great deal of test preparation. The knowledge-based ACT requires a strong academic background, but no particular test taking skills. So it will require less preparation.
    5. At the same time, most of the components of both tests are similar, and, without a doubt, stress reduction preparation will boost scores on both tests.
    6. Therefore, why not kill two birds with one stone? Prepare for the SAT and students will be sure that they are ready for the ACT too!

    One final note: THE SAT AND COLLEGE PREPARATION COURSE (2009), with its emphasis on critical thinking, critical reading, math computation, and writing skills, therefore is really a preparation for the SAT and ACT. It is all students will need to prepare for both tests!

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