College testing takes place several times a year and another round of tests is coming up this spring. I often get questions from parents who are concerned about the testing procedure. Some of their questions include:

- Which test do the colleges prefer?

- What is the difference between the SAT and ACT?

You get the picture. The tests cost money. The preparation and anxiety for the tests are stressful for your teen and for you. And finally, how many Saturday mornings can your teen test or retest before the whole college admission thing goes stale and repetitious.

So, in addition to sharpening the number 2 pencils, having new batteries for the calculator, taking a snack and water to the test, and getting a good night’s rest…here’s some helpful insight regarding college testing.

Traditionally, the SAT was the test of choice for private and east and west coast schools while the ACT was the preference for the Midwest. Now, more colleges are accepting both test results and an increasing number of students are taking the ACT. My advice, If you plan to attend college in the Midwest, just take the ACT. I think taking both the ACT and SAT is good experience to see the difference in the testing rigor. If you want to keep your options open for applying to schools around the country, this is a helpful tactic.

ACT includes a science reasoning test, SAT does not.
ACT includes trigonometry questions in the math section, SAT does not.
SAT tests much more vocabulary than the ACT.
ACT tests English grammar and reading, SAT focuses on vocabulary and reading.
SAT has a guessing penalty, ACT does not.
SAT has a penalty for wrong answers, ACT does not.

ACT is a content-based, straightforward exam whereas the SAT tests critical thinking and problem solving and the style of the test is “tricky with distracters.”
SAT generally poses more of a time challenge for students.
Scoring: ACT is 200-800 for Math and for Verbal, added together for a composite score. Median is about 1000. The SAT is 1-36 for each subject with an average taken for a composite score. Median is about 21.

Many students find they score higher on one test versus the other depending on what kind of test taker they are. So, depending on the student’s strengths and weaknesses, the student will probably perform better on one test than the other.

Students can take free practice tests online to get familiar with the directions and gain some testing savvy regarding test strategies and guessing. Visit or and get prepping.
Source: ACT SAT Online Preparation

Author's Bio: 

Barbara Wulf is a certified career/life coach and speaker who helps individuals redesign their career paths by supporting and inspiring them to stretch, seek, and achieve life/work success. Barbara holds a master's degree in counseling, is a global career development facilitator, is certified by The Coaches Training Institute and is an adjunct faculty member at Concordia University, St. Paul, MN. Barbara offers career assessments along with resume/cover letter writing and interviewing strategies for impact. Sign up for her monthly e-zine, OWN IT, WORK IT, LIVE IT at