The SAT and the ACT are the two main standardized tests given for entrance into college. The SAT tests a student's aptitude for learning and has more of an emphasis on the wording of questions than the reciting of facts. The ACT tests a student's knowledge, asking for recall of the subjects learned in high school. You don't have to go into either test blind -- both the ACT and SAT have online practice tests that enable you to see exactly the types of questions asked. Studying practice test examples of entrance exam questions and answers for college will give you an idea of what to expect.
What is on the ACT?
The ACT has four sections -- English, math, reading and science -- plus an optional writing test. The English tests your grammar and knowledge of sentence structure, as well as style and organization skills. Math covers all the algebra, geometry and trigonometry taught through the beginning of the senior year. Reading tests how well you understand what you read using short essays and paragraphs. The science test covers biology and physical science and asks you to interpret graphs, tables and research experiments. The optional writing test measures writing skills with a written essay.
What is on the SAT?
The SAT has three sections -- critical reading, writing and math. Critical reading covers diction, vocabulary strength and ability to read and understand written passages. Writing includes one essay question along with the multiple choice questions. It covers grammar, sentence structure and ability to correct errors in writing. Math covers basic math skills, algebra and geometry. Though the SAT contains 170 multiple choice questions plus one essay compared to the ACT's 215 multiple choice questions and one optional essay, the SAT takes more time to complete.
What's the Difference?
The two tests are similar in many respects, but there are also several differences. On the ACT, it is best to guess if you don't know an answer. On the SAT, points are deducted for wrong answers so you should only make educated guesses. The ACT has more advanced math questions. Besides covering trigonometry, it also asks about unreal numbers, logarithms and matrices. The SAT is much more vocabulary intensive than the ACT. There is more emphasis on the wording of math questions on the SAT. The SAT also does not contain any science questions.
Examples of Types of Exam Questions
Both the ACT and the SAT are multiple choice tests, with one essay section. Examples of math questions include finding the value of x in equations, finding coordinates of lines, solving multi-part equations using the rules of order, solving word problems and finding angles, among others. English questions include choosing the correct word to complete a sentence, locating sentence errors and choosing better wording for part of a sentence, among others. The science questions, found only on the ACT, ask you to read about an experiment and answer questions about what the information tells you. The questions are aimed more at determining how well you interpret the data you are given, rather than having you come up with data yourself.
College Interview Tips
Admission representatives from selective, competitive schools may invite you to a college interview. The purpose of college interview questions is to get to know you as a person and discover special contributions you could make to the college campus. Don’t panic. An interview can only help you if you research the school and come prepared to discuss specific reasons why you are a good fit.
Admission interview questions typically relate to your interests, accomplishments and favorite subjects. Back up adjectives you use to describe yourself with examples. If you say you are well-rounded, mention your high GPA, plethora of extracurricular activities, hobbies, travel experiences, volunteer work and part-time job, for instance.
- Bigfuture: How to Prepare for Admission Tests
- Analyze Math: Free SAT Math Test Practice Questions with Answers
- The ACT: Sample Mathematics Questions -- Set 1
- The ACT: Sample English Test Questions -- Passage 1
- The ACT: Sample Science Questions -- Passage 1
- CollegeBoard: SAT Reading Practice Questions
Jill Kokemuller has been writing since 2010, with work published in the "Daily Gate City." She spent six years working in a private boarding school, where her focus was English, algebra and geometry. Kokemuller is an authorized substitute teacher and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Iowa.