5 FAQ’s About the ACT and SAT

Bubbles on a test scantron reading "SAT"

The ACT and SAT tests are just as critical to the college admissions process as FAFSA and high school academic transcripts. Many colleges require one of these admission test scores to determine whether or not to admit an applicant, as well as if an applicant is eligible for a merit-based scholarship. These FAQ’s serve as an overview for what you need to know about these standardized tests.

What is the Difference Between the ACT and SAT?

  • ACT: The ACT, created by ACT Inc., is a college entrance exam used for making admissions decisions. It serves as criteria to help compare applicants. The four test sections are English, reading, math and science. A writing test is optional, but it may be required by some schools. Unlike the SAT, the ACT includes a science section and using a calculator is acceptable for all math questions.
  • SAT: The SAT, created by the College Board, is also a college entrance exam used for making admissions decisions. It, too, serves as criteria to help compare applicants. The two test sections are math and evidence-based reading and writing, along with an optional essay. Unlike the ACT, the SAT does not allow a calculator for the math section.

How Do I Register for the ACT and SAT?

To register for the ACT, visit act.org to find the following:

  • 2017 test dates
  • Registration and late registration deadlines
  • Steps for signing up for the ACT online
  • Fees and services
  • How to prepare
  • Details for test day
  • Retaking the test

For SAT registration, visit collegeboard.org. Click on the SAT tab to find the following:

  • Test dates, registration deadlines and testing centers
  • How to register online or by mail
  • Practice plans, tools and app
  • Study groups, goals setting, study plan/checklist and sample questions
  • Details for test day
  • Getting, understanding and sending scores

How Do I Prepare for the ACT and SAT?

Three techniques for preparing to take the ACT or SAT include:

  • Practice tests and sample quizzes
  • Prep class that involves homework, practice tests and, in some cases, live online lectures
  • One-on-one tutoring for personalized motivation and coaching (focus on strengths, weaknesses, feedback and explanations tailored to how you learn)

You may also want to exclusively work on your test-taking skills and create a realistic study schedule to help keep you on track leading up to the test day.

What Do I Need to Know Before Studying?

  • Both tests are predominantly multiple choice. The ACT is scored with one composite ACT score (1 – 36), which is the average total score of the scores from the four testing sections. Each section of the SAT is scored on a 200- to 800-point scale and the total score is based on a 400- to 1600-point scale.
  • Both exams are designed to test your reasoning and problem-solving skills and see what subject areas you excel in. The SAT focuses heavily on vocabulary, whereas the ACT’s grammar section heavily emphasizes punctuation in sentence structure and mechanics.
  • The ACT is more knowledge-based – learn material and how to apply it quickly. Plan to prep more intensely for the SAT if you’re strong in understanding material, but you’re less confidence in your test-taking skills.

What are the ACT and SAT Score Requirements for GCU?

Direct high school applicants interested in attending GCU must meet one of the three requirements with one option being a qualifying entrance exam score of:

  • ACT: 19
  • SAT (math and reading only) on 1600-point scale: 920 OR 1000 (depending on when the test is taken)

Find out about 2017-18 Direct Start Scholarship requirements, including the minimum ACT or SAT test score required for each GCU institutional scholarship, by visiting our website. To start working with a university counselor, fill out the Request More Information form at the top of the page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.