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SAT vs. ACT

In Idaho, public school students are required to take college placement exams—either the SAT, ACT or Compass —before the end of your eleventh grade year.

To help you meet this this requirement, the Idaho State Department of Education, with funding appropriated by the Idaho Legislature, has contracted with the College Board to fund a statewide SAT administration at every Idaho public high school each spring. The test date for the 2015-2016 school year is April 12, 2016.

Registration for the statewide SAT School Day administration will occur at your high school. Contact your school counselor if you have specific questions regarding registration.

Because the Idaho SAT School Day is funded by the Legislature through public education appropriations, home school and private school students cannot participate with the SAT School Day administration at a local high school.

All publicly-supported colleges and universities in Idaho accept either SAT or ACT scores for admission. While many high school students in Idaho will take the SAT because it’s provided at their school for free, you can also choose to take the ACT. You can find testing centers, dates, and costs on the ACT site.
There are a few key differences between the SAT and the ACT that you may want to consider before choosing which to take, or even deciding to take both. One way to determine which test might be the best fit for you is to answer sample questions for the ACT and for the SAT to see how you perform. While you’re practicing, think about which test questions feel most natural for you and which might be a better format for your test-taking skills.

Key differences between these tests:

  • The ACT has four subject areas with multiple choice questions: English, Math, Reading, and Science. The writing portion is optional. Conversely, the SAT starts with a required essay and follows with Critical Reading and Math sections. These have multiple choice sections, but there is also an area in the math section where you must show how you arrived at your answer (show your work).
  • The SAT has 140 questions, while the ACT has 215. Both tests take around 3 hours to complete.
  • The ACT focuses more on grammar and punctuation, while the SAT does more to test your vocabulary.
  • The ACT tests more advanced math subjects, including some trigonometry.
  • The SAT questions may not seem as straightforward as those on the ACT.
  • The SAT is known more for testing reasoning ability and the ACT for actual subject knowledge.