Get Your ACT Together

The ACT & SAT are used by colleges to determine academic potential. Learn how to perform well on these entrance exams by visiting for college can be strenuous at times, and having to take entrance exams can add to the pressure you’re feeling. A systematic, commonsense approach to preparing for and taking these exams, however, will ensure that you get accepted to the colleges you have selected. Four-year colleges and universities use the ACT and SAT to determine applicants’ academic achievement and potential. Test scores also serve as criteria for numerous financial awards. Read the answers to some popular questions about these tests so you will know the score when it comes to entrance exams.

Should I take the ACT or the SAT?

Some colleges prefer one exam; most colleges accept either, however. Check to see which test the school prefers. If you haven’t yet decided on a specific college, it may be a good idea to take both exams.

If the college accepts both exams, choose the one that will most favorably reflect your abilities. You can register for the ACT at and for the SAT at; both sites offer free online test questions to give you a preview of the real tests.

How can I prepare for the tests?

First, make sure to take college-preparatory courses throughout high school. Students who succeed in advanced English, math, science, and social studies generally do well on both the ACT and the SAT. Make time to sit down and review prior test results. If you have taken the ACT or SAT before, you may request detailed score reports for an extra charge and learn from your mistakes.

Know the Difference

Identifying the characteristics that make the SAT and ACT unique is important to determining which test you should take. The differences in test content and scoring are broken down for you here.


  • Five components: English, math, reading, science, and writing (optional)
  • Math up to trigonometry
  • Does not penalize for wrong answers
  • Given six times a year
  • Reports scores on a scale from one to 36


  • Three components: writing, critical reading, and math
  • Math up to ninth grade basic geometry and algebra II
  • Does penalize for wrong answers
  • Given seven times a year
  • Reports scores on a scale from 200 to 800 for each section (total maximum score of 2400)


This article was written by Sally Wood

Sally Wood is a freelance writer and editor from Marionville, Missouri. She worked as a high school counselor in the Aurora R-VIII School District in Aurora, Missouri, from 1980–2000.

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