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CD839573 Posts: 3,285
9/7/12 11:41 A

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It used to be that there was very much a geographical divide as to which schools focused on which test. For example, I grew up in the Northeast and we only took the SAT. My Midwestern and Southern friends took only the ACT. You generally only need one of those tests to apply for college. It used to be that some colleges didn't accept the ACT, but that has changed now and I believe all four year schools do.


The SAT has math, critical reading (focusing more on vocabulary, I think, but includes reading comprehension) and writing (usually expository) sections. The ACT has math (including trigonometry, which the SAT does not), science, reading (focus on comprehension) and writing (optional, though may be required by a college, and focuses more on argument). There's also a slight difference in how they score as to penalties for guessing. This is pretty much the information I can recall - I teach at a university now and used to work for a company that prepared students for standardized tests. You and your son may want to take a look at the preparation materials for each test and see which one might serve him better. As I mentioned, there's traditionally a focus on vocabulary on the SAT, and you can increase your score by being able to memorize more vocabulary words. If that's not a strength, the verbal section on the ACT might be more suited to your son.


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9/7/12 11:18 A

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Jennifer, I did a quick survey of my American friends and family...

Apparently the ACT and SAT measure somewhat different aptitudes, so it's possible to do well on one and badly on the other. I think with the essay portion, the SAT requires a greater aptitude for written English, as well as for reading and interpreting. The ACT doesn't have the written component, but the reading comprehension is still needed.

My school had us write the SAT, since several of the students each year went to American universities. If I recall it correctly, the verbal portion of the test was intense, and would likely be taxing for someone with dyslexia.

It might be worth having your son take both tests, as each one might better highlight a subset of his strengths, and the two together would give people a better overall picture.



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9/7/12 9:53 A

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Thanks so much. Steve, is there any easy way to determine which schools are looking for both, or if either one is sufficient? (Other than looking at the application requirements for each individual school that he may be interested in?)

I know my son is extremely nervous about taking these tests, and I want to get him in some prep classes and/or tutoring sessions to help him increase his confidence going in to them. It would be great to be able to save some money by focussing on only one of the tests, rather than having to prepare for both. But I don't want to limit his options when it comes time to apply next year.

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9/7/12 5:31 A

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Both are standardized tests for both American college acceptance and college scholarships. Universities want you to take one or the other, and some want scores on both. If my memory is correct there is a fee for either test and the testing locations and procedures are different. In fact the tests themselves are different. I believe the ACT was all multiple choice while the SAT does have an essay section, if my memory is correct. One good thing is that the tests can be taken more than once and you only have to report the best score. Oh, and the scores never "expire". I used my ACT score ten years after taking the test. While I was granted entrance to an American University based on the old score, I could not count it to a scholarship. I hope this helps!

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9/7/12 12:15 A

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SATs are for college and there is a fee for them. I think the ACT is a standard test that the high schools give them. If going to a community college an SAT isn't really neccessary.

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9/6/12 11:14 P

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It's been about 40 years, so I am not sure, but I think you take both of them.

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9/6/12 4:25 P

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I've mentioned before that my younger son is severely Dyslexic. He attends a specialized private school that is much better equipped at helping him work to his true potential and have academic success. So much so, that college/university has gone from being an impossible dream to a very real option.

We are Canadian, but the school he attends is in the United States. Now that he is starting his Junior year, we have begun to receive information from the school about SATs and ACTs. But, to be honest, it is all very "foreign" to me since Canadian universities don't use these tests, and I didn't apply to an American schools. I understand the general concept that these are standardized tests that allow universities to evaluate a student's potential success based on something more concrete than just high school grades.

But what is the difference between the SATs and ACTs? Do students generally do both? Or do they pick one? Do all colleges/universities accept either one? Or if you chose just one, are you also limiting your options for colleges/universities? I have heard some people at my son's school saying that Dyslexic students typically do better on the ACTs, so I don't know if my son should just focus on prep'ing for those? Or if he should be doing both? Or just the SATs?

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