SAT vs. ACT: Which Test is Best for Indiana Colleges?

Posted by IPFW Admissions Team on 9/8/16 8:30 AM


It’s part of the high school experience to be stressed over the SAT and ACT. It’s also part of the experience to prepare tirelessly for the prep exams just to come close to feeling like you are ready to rock those exams.

You’re probably aware that these tests are important for your future, but maybe you’re not sure why or how. Which one—if either—is more important for getting into college? What’s the difference between the two, and how do they apply specifically to Indiana?

What’s the difference?

The SAT exam has three sections: math, reading comprehension, and writing.

Your score is weighted on a scale of 2400 total points with each section being worth 800 points. If you’re planning to pursue a major rooted in a specialized field—for which one of the test sections may prove more important than the others—the SAT is the preferable test. For example, engineering schools would pay more attention to the math score, and English programs might pay more attention to your reading comprehension and writing scores.

The ACT, however, has four sections: English, math, reading comprehension, and science. There is also an optional essay.

Each section of the ACT is scored out of a 36-point total and the total score is averaged from all sections rather than broken down as it is in the SAT. Points are not deducted for wrong answers (as they are on the SAT), so guess away!

Neither test is easier than the other. However, the ACT pulls more from classroom knowledge. In other words: if you’re a strong student, but maybe not the best test-taker, the ACT may lean more in your favor.

How are these scores factored into college admissions?

One or two specific viewpoints often come into play when it comes to these exam scores and universities.

Larger state schools with big pools of incoming freshmen tend to make SAT/ACT scores primary criteria for admission—meaning high test scores can get you admitted to the college in question as long as there aren’t any other red flags in your application and academic history.

More selective (and typically smaller) universities tend to categorize SAT/ACT test scores as necessary to have, but not sufficient for admission—sometimes they deem them not necessary at all.

These selective universities tend to have huge pools of freshman candidates as well—however, students applying to these schools will more often than not all have high test scores anyways.

Some colleges will also superscore your SAT, meaning they will take your highest section scores across all the test attempts you’ve made. If you didn’t score as well the first time around, take it again!

Which one should I take?

Universities are so varied in what they look for in your application that it’s ultimately a good idea to just take both. One may be more suited to your learning style (which is the one you can put forward most often on applications) and you may also decide you want to apply to a college you hadn’t considered before. That new college might require scores from whichever test you didn’t take. Having both in your arsenal is your best bet.

If you’re really not sure which one you want to do—but you don’t want to take both—scrounge up some practice tests and see which you perform the best and most naturally on! 

Admissions officers will of course look at much more than just your test scores, but they are important to have—particularly if one school you’re applying to puts a lot of weight on one or both scores.

At IPFW, SAT or ACT exam scores are part of the application criteria. In fall 2014 the incoming freshman class earned an average SAT composite score of 1473 and an average ACT composite score of 22.

If you’re still in the process of scheduling your exams or working to make those scores the best they can be, check out some of our past posts about the SAT and ACT exams:

Download the checklist - The Ultimate College Decision Timeline


Topics: Applying to College





Search the Blog