College-bound high school students face intense pressure around preparing for standardized admissions testing – including choosing whether to take the SAT or the ACT. Conventional wisdom often purports that the decision is largely a toss-up, since most colleges give equal weight to both exams.

But while it’s generally recognized that neither test is “easier” or “harder” than the other overall, their formats are different – so one might be better suited to a particular student than the other. But which?

The goal of the ACT is to evaluate overall educational development. The SAT, however, is geared toward evaluate general thinking and problem-solving skills. In short: the SAT emphasizes reasoning more than content, while the ACT emphasizes content over reasoning. Another key difference is that the ACT requires you to complete more work in a shorter amount of time.

The college prep company College Planning Partnerships does a great job explaining in clear, understandable terms all the most important ways in which the two tests differ – and what kind of learner these differences favor. Better yet, College Planning Partnerships has developed an affordable and comprehensive SAT/ACT Diagnostic test, which includes a 9-page, learning analytics driven comparison report that details why a student will likely do better on one test versus the other. (The Socrato learning analytics engine is used to process the report.)

The diagnostic test was developed through experience gained over tens of thousands of hours tutoring and testing students. It consists of seven sections (ACT English, SAT Critical Reading, ACT Mathematics, SAT Writing, ACT Reading, SAT Mathematics, and ACT Science), each of which is designed to mirror the corresponding section of the actual SAT or ACT exam. Time allotted for each section also mirrors the actual tests.

The balance of questions and concepts presented in The SAT/ACT Diagnostic likewise reflect the actual tests, having been developed by analyzing the occurrence of each topic over 50 actual exams. The diagnostic is further refined through ongoing calibration, analysis and updates against the actual exams, to ensure accurate results and incorporate new concepts and questions.

Taking The SAT/ACT Diagnostic is easy, and results are available immediately. Taking the test requires about three hours, and is best done under conditions similar to how the SAT or ACT is administered (e.g., in a quiet, low-distraction space; using a timer on each section; etc.). It’s important not to exceed the allotted time for completing each section, as this could reduce the accuracy of the result.

Students can take the diagnostic and receive the report for just $50. An optional 1-hour online consultation about your report with a tutor or consultant “versed in both the SAT casino and ACT” costs an additional $100. This later option helps learners identify clearly where they need to focus their energy to improve their SAT or ACT score the most, and includes valuable strategies and a customized study plan to guide test prep.

A program — included materials with your own brand or logo on them — is also available for tutors and other educators, designed to help students identify strengths and weaknesses, determine which test is right for them, and get the highest possible score on the test of their choice.

The SAT/ACT Diagnostic and learning analytics report identifies whether a student is likely to score stronger on the SAT or the ACT, and provides first-hand, realistic experience with taking both exams. For many students, this offering will be a highly valuable, cost-effective and time-efficient “first step to successful prep” for a standardized college admissions test.

SAT vs ACT: Choosing the Right Test [NEW EBOOK]

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Our free 20-page ebook is a step-by-step guide on how to select the right test for your student. Learn everything you need to know about using the PLAN and PSAT to improve student scores, how to leverage learning analytics to select one test over the other, and other tips on how to take the guesswork out of selecting the ACT vs the SAT.