SAT and ACT Calculator Tips and Shortcuts

Both the SAT and ACT allow a calculator on the mathematics section, so it’s important to know how to get the most out of one come test day. Note, however, that the calculator is not allowed on any other sections—including ACT science.

What Type of Calculator Is Allowed?

The SAT and ACT place relatively few restrictions on calculator use. The ACT is somewhat stricter than the SAT, prohibiting calculators with CAS (“computer algebra system”) functionality, whereas these are generally allowed on the SAT. Most popular high school calculators, like the Texas TI-83 and TI-84, are permitted. Always make sure to check, however, that your model is kosher before you sit for the exam. You can find a complete list of permitted calculators for the ACT here and a similar list for the SAT here. The following graphing calculators are generally allowed on the SAT:

Casio
FX-6000 series
FX-6200 series
FX-6300 series
FX-6500 series
FX-7000 series
FX-7300 series
FX-7400 series
FX-7500 series
FX-7700 series
FX-7800 series
FX-8000 series
FX-8500 series
FX-8700 series
FX-8800 series
FX-9700 series
FX-9750 series
FX-9860 series
CFX-9800 series
CFX-9850 series
CFX-9950 series
CFX-9970 series
FX 1.0 series
Algebra FX 2.0 series
FX-CG-10 (PRIZM)
FX-CG-20
Hewlett-Packard
HP-9G
HP-28 series
HP-38G
HP-39 series
HP-40 series
HP-48 series
HP-49 series
HP-50 series
HP Prime

Radio Shack
EC-4033
EC-4034
EC-4037

Sharp
EL-5200
EL-9200 series
EL-9300 series
EL-9600 series
EL-9900 series

Texas Instruments
TI-73
TI-80
TI-81
TI-82
TI-83/TI-83 Plus
TI-83 Plus Silver
TI-84 Plus
TI-84 Plus CE
TI-84 Plus Silver
TI-84 Plus C Silver
TI-85
TI-86
TI-89
TI-89 Titanium
TI-Nspire/TI-Nspire CX
TI-Nspire CAS/TI-Nspire CX CAS
TI-Nspire CM-C/TI-Nspire CM-C CAS
TI-Nspire CX-C CAS

Other
Datexx DS-883
Micronta
Smart

What’s The Best Calculator To Use?

While graphing calculators allow you to find solutions to some linear and quadratic problems, these problems are generally solved just as quickly (or more quickly) without a calculator. That said, popular graphing calculators like the TI-83 often contain handy shortcuts that standard or scientific calculators lack. For that reason I recommend using a graphing calculator, such as the TI-83 or TI-84, that features the types of added functionality described below.

No matter what type of calculator you’re using, make sure you’re familiar with it before test day. Know when to use parenthesis, for instance, and how your calculator processes the order of operations.

SAT and ACT Calculator Tips and Shortcuts

When Should I Use The Calculator?

Most, if not all, SAT and ACT math problems can be solved without the use of a calculator. That said, not using a calculator at all will take more time and can often lead to more careless mistakes. It’s important, then, to know when and when not to use the calculator.

In general, take a few moments to understand each question and plan your method of attack before picking up the calculator. Don’t rely on your calculator for the big picture problem-solving strategy—this part is up to you. You should be especially wary, for instance, of problems that look overtly complex. Many of these can be solved quickly with a simple shortcut, and thus should not be immediately plugged into the calculator.

Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to solve a problem, then you can use the calculator to quickly work through any arithmetic. Doing so is a good idea because it’s faster than solving on paper and less likely to lead to mistakes.

Beyond simple arithmetic, there are a couple of powerful shortcuts you should know about that can speed up your work on the SAT or ACT. Pretty much everything else, on the other hand, you can solve better without the calculator.

Calculator Shortcuts For The SAT and ACT

While these shortcuts are available on many graphing calculators, I’m going to explain how to access them on what are perhaps the most popular of all high school graphing calculators, the TI-83 and TI-84.

Decimal-Fraction Conversions: Did you solve a problem and end up with a decimal that you need to convert into a fraction, or vice-versa? Enter the value into your calculator and then hit “Math,” followed by “1:Frac” to turn a decimal into a fraction or “2:Dec” to turn a fraction into a decimal.

Least Common Multiple and Greatest Common Factor: Need to find one of these quickly? Don’t construct a time-consuming factor tree. Instead, hit “Math,” go to the “Num” menu, then go down to “8:lcm” for least common multiple or “9:gcd” for greatest common factor. Enter the two values, separated by a comma. If you’re trying to find the least common multiple or greatest common factor for more than two values, simply use this function to find the LCM or GCF of the first two values, then solve again for THAT result combined with the third term, then solve again for THAT result combined with the fourth term, and so on. Once you’ve worked through all your terms, you’ll end up with the LCM or GCF for the set as a whole.

Combinations: When finding out how many ways you can choose r number of selections from n number of things and the order they’re arranged in doesn’t matter, enter the total n number of objects, then hit “Math,” go to the “Prb” menu, then select “3:nCr,” then enter the number of r selections. Then press enter for your solution.

Calculator Shortcuts For The ACT Only

If you’re taking the ACT, you’ll also want to learn a few additional shortcuts.

Arc Functions: When given a sine, cosine or tangent value, you can solve for the initial angle by taking the arc function. Simply press “2nd,” then sin-1, cos-1 or tan-1, to find out the initial angle. The angle will either be in radians or degrees—you can choose which by using the “Mode” menu. Remember that arc functions result in only one of the possible angles that could produce the given sine/cosine/tangent value, so be careful here.

Radian-Degree Conversions: Need to convert radians to degrees or vice-versa? Hit “Mode” and then select radians or degrees to specify the type of value you’d like to end up with. Then enter the starting value and press “2nd,” then “angle,” then “1” if the angle is in degrees “3” if the angle is in radians. Press enter to see the converted value.

Logs: You can solve any log problem of the sort log base x of y by entering “log y” and then dividing that result by “log x.”

Recap

While calculators can’t do the big picture thinking the SAT and ACT require for you, they can help minimize errors and speed up your work. Look for an approved graphing calculator with the above functionality for the exam, become familiar with it, and then use it to your advantage on test day!

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Ten New ACT Essay Question Prompts

The ACT recently changed the format of the optional essay, debuting the new essay on the September 2015 exam. From September on, all essay prompts will require you to not only respond to a specific question, but to also read and address three unique perspectives on the question.

NewACTEssaySampleQuestionPrompts

While the new essay format is admittedly more complex than the earlier version, it’s still very predictable and you can do very well on it with the right preparation. For advice on how to approach the essay, check out my post How To Write the New ACT Essay.

Unfortunately, the ACT has only released a meager two sample prompts for you to preview. The first one is available on the ACT’s website here. The second is included in the most recent practice ACT the test makers have released, available as a PDF here.

In order to do your best on the essay, you’ll want to make sure you practice with more than just two essay question prompts. Here are ten additional new ACT sample essay question prompts I’ve written to help you prepare. You’ll have 40 minutes to complete each essay.

Accelerating Globalization (Sample Essay Prompt 1)

Only a few hundred years ago, communication between countries on opposite ends of the globe was painstakingly slow or non-existent. Most people knew little about distant lands, peoples and cultures. What they thought they knew was frequently erroneous or ill conceived. Within the past hundred years, however, the pace of globalization has accelerated rapidly. Today travel across the globe in less than 24 hours is a real possibility for many people. Individuals and nations can instantly communicate with one another across great distances. For better or worse, the world has become more connected than was ever imaginable before, and it continues to become more connected every day. Has globalization made the world a better or a worse place?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the effects of globalization.

Perspective 1

Globalization, despite its lustrous promises, has created more problems than it has solved. It has allowed rich countries to get richer at the expense of poorer countries, and it has increased, not decreased, the number of armed conflicts in the world.

Perspective 2

The world is undoubtedly a better place today because of globalization. It has allowed critical resources to be distributed to the governments and people that need them the most.

Perspective 3

While I celebrate the productive exchange of cultures globalization has facilitated, I worry about how globalization is homogenizing those cultures. Take languages—do we really want to live in a world where one day everyone only speaks only one global language?

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the impact of globalization on the world. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Technology and Everyday Life (Sample Essay Prompt 2)

Technology has radically changed the way we interact with the world. Not long ago, individuals who wanted to get in touch had to do so either by meeting in person or sending messages through postal mail. In order to perform most types of research, people were forced to visit physical libraries, bookstores or archives. Over the past two decades, technology has rendered many of these time-consuming tasks obsolete. Messages can be sent anywhere in the world via email in only a matter of seconds. All sorts of information is available with the click of a smart phone button. People can not only call individuals anytime, but they can also access their geolocation on demand. It seems like everyone is on his or her smart phone every waking minute. Has this increase in the power and reach of technology bettered out lives?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the presence of technology in our lives.

Perspective 1

Today’s technology has greatly bettered our lives. Individuals are more connected to the information and people they want to connect with, and the result is smarter, happier and more fulfilled human beings.

Perspective 2

Technology promises to “connect” us with one another. But look around and you’ll see how disconnected it’s made us—individuals no longer interact with one another because they’ve become so consumed by their phones and devices.

Perspective 3

Technology may have made the world a better place for those who have access to it, but its prohibitive costs have made it inaccessible, and consequently unhelpful, to too many people.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the impact of technology on our lives. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

College Sports (Sample Essay Prompt 3)

College sports have become incredibly popular in the United States. Big games air on the most coveted TV channels at the most coveted times. Teams are followed not only by loyal students and alumni but also by diverse fans from across the country. Major athletic programs bring millions of dollars to university coffers. Star coaches can often earn more than university presidents, making them the highest paid employees on campus. Full scholarships are awarded to star athletes because of their athletic prowess rather than their academic record. In some instances, athletes are even given fake grades to help them stay on the team. Given all of this, should colleges continue to support their sports teams?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the role of athletics at colleges.

Perspective 1

Colleges should strongly support their sports teams. These teams not only generate millions of dollars for schools, but they also help sell prospective students on attending the college.

Perspective 2

Sports have no official place in college. Colleges are institutions created for learning, not for athletics. College sports compromise academic standards and disadvantage students who don’t participate.

Perspective 3

While college sports play a valuable role on university campuses, it is important for administrators to not lose perspective. That some football coaches earn more than university presidents, for example, is clearly wrong.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on college support for sports teams. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

College Curricula (Sample Essay Prompt 4)

For years, American colleges have emphasized the liberal arts over more narrow technical and professional training. College students have been required to study a broad range of academic disciplines, such as literature, philosophy, history and mathematics. Today, however, a growing number of colleges and students have rejected the liberal arts in favor of what some consider to be more practical subjects, such as accounting, finance and nutrition. Global economic hardship has led many to question the value of a liberal arts education that, in their eyes, fails to adequately prepare students for the realities they will face after graduation. Is it important for colleges to promote the study of the liberal arts, or should they emphasize professional and technical training in its place?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about college curricula.

Perspective 1

The liberal arts are essential to a quality education because they teach students how to think critically about a broad range of topics, thus preparing them to tackle any issue that might arise in the workplace.

Perspective 2

It is time to bury the liberal arts model at our colleges. Reading Shakespeare and studying pure mathematics will not help anyone be successful in any sort of business.

Perspective 3

Colleges should closely integrate the liberal arts with professional studies, as each can benefit from the other. Business courses, for example, are enriched by the philosophical study of ethics.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the relative importance of the liberal arts and professional studies. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Arts Funding (Sample Essay Prompt 5)

Government funding for the arts is commonplace in many countries today. In the United States, the government funds writers, musicians and visual artists through a variety of initiatives. Critics of this type of funding argue that the government has no place in the arts. Why should taxpayers, the majority of whom have no interest in the works being supported by such funding, be forced to pay for those works? Others, however, argue that government funding for the arts is critical to the wellness of our society. Given the dismal financial prospects in the arts, many artists would be unable to support themselves without the type of funding that the government provides. Should the government continue to fund the arts?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the government funding for the arts.

Perspective 1

The government has no place in the arts because the government is not qualified to judge which projects should receive funding and which should not.

Perspective 2

Without financial support from the government, many great works of art would never be created. Government funding is thus essential.

Perspective 3

The free marketplace, not the government, is the best source of arts funding. If an artist can’t get any money, the reason is simple—her work is not very good!

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on government funding of the arts. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Corporate Responsibility (Sample Essay Prompt 6)

Large corporations make up some of the wealthiest entities in the world today. Some see these corporations as engines of economic development and progress, bringing better products at better prices to a wider range of people every day. Others, however, criticize corporations for their shortcomings when it comes to social responsibility: failing to assist the less fortunate in our society, including their workers, while focusing too narrowly on profits at the expense of social welfare. Should corporations do more than simply aim to improve their profit margins? Is it important for large corporations to set aside profits from time to time in order to donate to charities and to help the needy?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about corporate responsibility.

Perspective 1

Corporations have only one responsibility: to make the greatest profit they possibly can. It is only by doing so that they can benefit their workers, shareholders, and society.

Perspective 2

Profits often get in the way of doing the right thing. Large corporations should focus less on profits and more on developing meaningful ways of helping the disadvantaged.

Perspective 3

It is important that corporations adhere to any and all laws that pertain to them. Beyond this, however, they are free to do as they please.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on corporate responsibility. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

The Federal Government (Sample Essay Prompt 7)

The United States government is made up of various national, state and local governing bodies. Certain responsibilities, like the building of interstate roadways, are looked after by the national, or federal, government, whereas more local issues are often overseen by local government bodies like state legislatures or city councils. Many argue that states and cities in the United States wield too much power, power that they believe should belong in the hands of the federal government. Others contend that the federal government is too large and is unresponsive to the particular needs of states and cities; they would like to see local government overtake many of the responsibilities now delegated to the federal government. Should the federal government or local governing bodies have more power?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the role of the federal government.

Perspective 1

States and cities are ill-equipped to handle most of their own governing. The federal government can do not only a better job of governing them, but a faster and cheaper one.

Perspective 2

The federal government is too big to adequately address the needs of individual states and cities. States and cities know what is best for them, not the federal government.

Perspective 3

Local government fails only when it lacks the backing of the federal government. The federal government should provide logistical and financial support to states and cities in order to enable them to govern themselves effectively.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the relative roles of local and federal government. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Religious Liberty (Sample Essay Prompt 8)

The relationship between religious liberty and individual rights has often been a problematic one throughout American history. Today, for example, many businesses feel compelled to refuse service to homosexuals because of the religious beliefs of the business owners. Some argue that this refusal of service constitutes unlawful discrimination. Public school boards are often uncertain which religious holidays to add to the academic calendar. Should a Christian student, for instance, have to miss school because of a Jewish holiday? How should the state balance the need to respect religious liberty with need to preserve the rights of all members of society?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about religious liberty and individual rights.

Perspective 1

The state must accommodate all religions to the fullest extent possible. This means school days off for all major religious holidays and protecting the right of business owners to refuse service based on religious beliefs.

Perspective 2

The government has no special obligation to protect religious liberties when they interfere with the freedoms and well-being of the public at large.

Perspective 3

Government should seek, to the greatest extent possible, ways to accommodate both religious liberty and individual rights when the two find themselves in conflict.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the state and religious liberty. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Solving Society’s Problems (Sample Prompt 9)

The world today faces a wide range of challenges. Despite the great economic and scientific progress mankind has made, many in the world are still struggling to survive. Even in developed nations, individuals and communities face problems like poverty, disease and violence. Individuals and private organizations have done much to help alleviate many of these problems. Government have also played a role in addressing issues like poverty and public health. In your opinion, who has a bigger role to play in solving today’s problems: governments or individuals?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the role of government and individuals in solving today’s problems.

Perspective 1

Individuals could not possibly hope to solve problems as large as the ones we face today. Only large governments with sizable resources can help.

Perspective 2

Governments are, by nature, composed of individuals working as a team. Governments can solve major problems because they harness the power of individuals.

Perspective 3

The best solutions to society’s problems always come from individuals, not governments. Governments lack the creativity and drive necessary to tackle major problems successfully.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the role of individuals and governments as problem solvers. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Avoiding Armed Conflicts (Sample Prompt 10)

Armed conflicts between nations have always been and remain, unfortunately, a constant fact of life. How politicians and governments seek to avoid of these conflicts, however, varies greatly. Many leaders and political thinkers insist on the importance of demonstrating military might in order to reduce the likelihood of such conflicts. Others argue that flexing military muscle is basically inviting armed conflict, and that the best way nations can avoid conflicts is simply by keeping an open line of communication with one another. When forced to choose between a strong showing of military might and diplomatic efforts, which should nations choose in order to avoid armed conflicts?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about how military might and diplomatic efforts can prevent armed conflicts.

Perspective 1

Without a strong showing of military might, a nation will lead its enemies to believe that it is weak and vulnerable to attack. The result is, inevitably, such an attack.

Perspective 2

International conflicts can quickly escalate into full-blown armed conflicts unless the nations involved talk to one another and learn to settle their differences through words rather than bombs.

Perspective 3

Demonstrating military might is always a better way to prevent armed conflict than diplomacy, because whereas military might is a deterrent to conflict, diplomacy rarely succeeds in resolving international disagreements.

Essay Task

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the respective roles of diplomacy and military might. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

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Every Official ACT Practice Test

Official ACT practice tests should form the core of any ACT prep plan. Take each test timed and review missed questions carefully before moving on to a new test. Keep a record of the questions you’ve missed and how to solve them so that you can go back and review them over time.

Every Official ACT Practice Test

There are a total of 12 official practice tests available. The ACT website also contains a series of practice questions roughly equal in length to one practice test. Here is where you can find all this material:

The Real ACT Prep Guide, Third Edition

This contains five tests. These include answer explanations, although they’re of mixed quality.

ACT Online Prep

This online software from the ACT contains two tests. While the tests contain answer explanations (of mixed quality again), you are unable to print the tests and must take them on the computer.

Released PDFs

Over the years, the ACT has released 5 additional practice exams as PDFs. These contain answer and scoring information but no answer explanations.

PDF Test 1

PDF Test 2

PDF Test 3

PDF Test 4

PDF Test 5

ACT Sample Questions

While not technically an exam, this set of official questions roughly matches the length of a full test. Explanations are included.

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Should You Send Those Four Free ACT Score Reports?


Anytime you register for the ACT you automatically receive four free score reports. This means that the ACT will send your scores to any four universities you choose, free of charge. All you have to do is request the reports anytime up to noon central time the Thursday after your test date.

That sounds like an enticing offer, especially since regular score reports cost $12 each, with rush orders running up to $16.50.

There are two major catches, however. First, you’ll have to send your scores before you know what they are. The ACT doesn’t release your results until at least two weeks after the test, or in other words until around 10 days after you must decide whether or not to send the free reports. If you choose to send the reports, then, you risk sending low scores if you end up having done poorly on the test.

ACT Four Free Score Reports

Second, the ACT will tell colleges the order in which you listed those colleges on your free score report form. Colleges use this information to help them determine how interested you are in attending their school as opposed to other schools. If a college sees that they weren’t listed first on your form, that may lower your chance of admission at that university. This information is included in any reports you request by the Thursday deadline. If you wait until after you’ve received your scores to send them, on the other hand, colleges won’t receive any record of the order in which you listed schools on your report form.

So should you send the free reports? Typically not. By sending the free reports, you’re telling multiple colleges that they’re not your first choice, which can hurt your chances of admission. While this may help you at the one school you selected first, you’re also putting yourself at a potential disadvantage at all the other schools. You also might change your mind about your first choice school by the time you submit your college applications.

Another problem with using the free reports is that you might be unnecessarily sending low scores. Many schools only require you to send your highest test scores for consideration. If you did poorly on the test, you’ll be sending low scores that you might otherwise never need to send. Why risk sending low scores to an admissions committee if you don’t have to?

So when should you use the free score reports? If one of your top choice colleges requires you to submit all your ACT scores, then list that school by itself on your free report. You’ll have to send the score to them eventually, only this way it will look like they’re one of your top choices.

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Should International Students Take the SAT or ACT?


If you’re an international student, you may have heard of the SAT, the entrance exam required by the vast majority of American colleges. If you’re thinking of attending college in the United States, however, you’re also eligible to submit the ACT exam instead.

Logistically speaking, registering for the SAT might be a bit easier than the ACT. The SAT boasts over 1,000 international testing centers, whereas the ACT has only around 400. If you live a minimum of 75 miles away from a testing center, however, you can usually work with the SAT or ACT directly to schedule a more convenient test administration.

Before registering for either exam, first make sure that you figure out which test is best for you. You can learn about the general differences and how to decide between the two tests here.

While you won’t know which test you prefer until you’ve taken an official, timed practice test for each, many international students prefer the ACT. This is especially true for students whose first language is not English. The reason for this is twofold.

SAT ACT International

First, the ACT does not test your grasp of the English language as rigorously as does the SAT. Most notably, the SAT tests vocabulary whereas the ACT does not. SAT vocabulary can be very advanced and shows up all throughout the exam, from passages to questions to answer choices.

Not only does the ACT not test vocabulary (although it has a few questions about word choice), but the overall difficulty level of English on the exam is lower than that on the SAT. Passages are often easier to understand, and the questions that ask about them tend to be more straightforward. For the SAT, on the other hand, you’ll need to have a more nuanced understanding of subtleties in the passages, which requires a more advanced grasp of the English language.

The second reason international students tend to prefer the ACT is that the exam is weighted more toward the quantitative than the verbal. International students tend to score better (and to improve more quickly) on quantitative testing than do American students, as the quality of math education overseas is often superior to that found in the United States. The ACT has two quantitative sections (Math and Science) and two verbal sections (English and Reading), whereas the SAT has only one quantitative section (Math) and two verbal sections (Reading and Writing). This also means that your command of English will be tested less on the ACT.

While you should take these considerations into account when choosing between the SAT and ACT, always make sure to take an official practice test for each to see which test is best for you.

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