Donna Cox
Office Location:
30 Lyman St, Ste 5
Westborough MA 01581
(c) 774-258-0409


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(Notes from our students)


 SAT and ACT: What's the difference?  Which is better for my child?

The SAT goes digital as of the March 2024 test. Your child has been exposed to this test once already if (s)he took the PSAT in October 2023. The digital SAT has been streamlined to a running time of just over two hours and consists of two modules of Reading and Writing and two modules of Math. A student's performance on the first module determines whether (s)he will be presented with a second module of similar difficulty or one of a higher level of difficulty.

Each Reading and Writing module contains 27 questions and must be completed in 32 minutes. Questions can come from a variety of types: words in context, text function, text purpose, text structure, comparison of two texts, reading comprehension (find the answer in the text), main idea, logical completion of the text, interpretation of graphs and charts, textual evidence, rhetorical synthesis, transitions, and correct use of standard English conventions. The long passage with 10 questions is no longer a part of the SAT: each short passage is accompanied by a single question.
Each Math section contains 22 questions and must be completed in 35 minutes. Of the 44 total Math questions, 33 are multiple choice and 11 are open response. They are distributed roughly in the following manner: Algebra 35%, Advanced Math 35%, Problem-Solving and Data Analysis 15%, and Geometry and Trigonometry 15%. The digital SAT also incorporates embedded pretesting into its design. In embedded pretesting, a small number of pretest (unscored) questions are included, or embedded, among the operational (scored) questions.

The ACT test consists of 4 sections: English (grammar and rhetoric), Math, Reading, and Science, in that order. It is a fairly straightforward test; the worst thing about the ACT is that it has a lot of questions to be answered in a short time. The ACT is very consistent and very coachable; students who practice diligently are extremely likely to show significant improvement over time.

The English portion of the ACT asks questions concerning the correctness of the grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, and rhetoric in an essay. It consists of 75 questions, 15 each in 5 passages.
The Math section of the ACT, 60 questions to be completed in 60 minutes, covers the same topics as the SAT, and it is much more straightforward than the SAT Math. The SAT supplies a standard set of equations at the beginning of each section, but the ACT does not because it expects students to be familiar with them. ACT does, however, supply an equation (such as the volume of a cone) if it is outside the "standard" set that students should be familiar with.
The Reading section of the ACT contains four long passages (10 questions each to be completed in 35 minutes), one of which is a double (Passages A and B with two perspectives on the same subject), but the questions are generally more factual, less interpretive, more direct, and therefore, some would argue, easier.
The Science portion of the ACT (six passages with 40 total questions) deals with interpreting scientific information presented in chart, graph and experimental results format; it requires very little formal science knowledge, but the better a student is at science, the easier this section will be for him or her.

CTG advises all our students to take both the SAT and the ACT tests, even a "mock" version. Now that both the SAT and the ACT offer score choice and students can decide which of possibly several sets of SAT and/or ACT scores to send to the colleges, there is no down side to trying both. Students who do well on the SAT usually do as well or even better on the ACT, so they have two ways to shine on their college apps. Students for whom the SAT is just a bit much to handle very often do better on the ACT, so they can choose to send just their best ACT scores. Every college in the country will accept either SAT or ACT scores with no preference.


CTG Westborough   |   Donna Cox   |   774.258.0409 (c)   |