As the summer winds down and students prepare for the fall semester, the issue of college admissions will undoubtedly begin to weigh heavily on the minds of high-school seniors.
One of the biggest questions surrounding this topic is whether an applicant will do better on the SAT or ACT.
Business Insider talked to Dr. Gary Gruber, a theoretical physicist and educator who has dedicated his life to understanding the critical thinking skills essential in test-taking, to answer that question.
Surprisingly, he said the two exams resemble each other today than at any time before.
“The SAT is much closer to the ACT,” Gruber, who has dozens of books published on standardised test taking, explained.
“The reading is almost identical, and the maths section is almost identical except the fact that its a little more tedious on the SAT,” he continued. “The ACT is slightly more straight forward.”
By tedious, Gruber explained that the questions on the SAT maths section often have more material (reading or referencing a graph) that students must make their way through before answering.
On the ACT you are more likely to find straightforward maths questions, like simply solving an equation.
He gave an example of a tedious question that you’d be more likely to find on the SAT.
Mary is a computer expert. Each week she is handed a number of computers that needs to be fixed. The following equation represents the number of computers at the end of the day that needs to be fixed: C = 16 — 2D, where C is the number of computers left and D is the number of days Mary has worked that week. What is the meaning of the number 16 in the preceding equation?
(A) Mary will finish fixing all the computers in 16 days.
(B) Mary fixes the computers at the rate of 16 per hour.
(C) Mary fixes the computers at the rate of 16 per day.
(D) Mary starts each week with 16 computers to fix.
Choice D is correct.
In terms of test format and content, there are also subtle differences between the two exams. The ACT, for example, has a science section while the SAT does not.
“You don’t need any science knowledge — like what is an enzyme — but you have to know how to interpret charts and graphs and data,” Gruber said.
Even though, the exams are really close in content, Gruber still said he thought one was slightly more difficult than the other. “Personally, I would say the SAT is a little more difficult,” he said.
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