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Why Take the ACT? 9 Important Reasons

Posted by Vero Lecocq | Apr 14, 2016 5:00:00 PM

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Standardized testing is not most people's idea of fun—quite the opposite actually. Why take the ACT, then? There are quite a few reasons, actually, and they range from the essentially necessary to the more elective.

In this guide, we'll discuss what those reasons are, from college applications to job searching, as well as why the ACT may fit you better than the SAT.


#1: Most Colleges Will Require Your Scores

There are, indeed, some colleges that don't require scores—schools that are test-optional or even completely test-blind.

That being said, most colleges want to see how you did on the SAT and/or ACT. Colleges will accept either one—you don't need to submit both unless you want to, and no college will dictate which you should send.

Not taking the test, then, severely limits your options regarding the schools you can hope to attend.


#2: There Are Score-Based Scholarships for the Winning

Many colleges reward students with loads of tuition money, provided they can supply the appropriate test scores. Taking the ACT (and doing well on it) could actually lead to a full ride at some schools and generous scholarships at many other.


body_money-17.jpgHopefully your scholarship money won't be meted out in single-dollar bills, either.


#3: Some Jobs Require Your Test Scores

This may seem odd, and it's certainly a newer trend. Still, some potential bosses want to see data from the SAT or ACT before they hire you.

This doesn't just apply to test prep jobs, either; it applies to jobs in consulting and the financial sector, too. According to the Wall Street Journal, it's getting more common.

How much better, then, to get it taken care of now, rather than scrambling to take the test when an employer asks for scores unexpectedly? (Answer: A lot better.)


#4: The ACT Has a Science Section

The SAT incorporates some scientific passages into the test, but there's no all-out science section. If science is your thing, then—if you're a total science whiz—use the ACT as an opportunity to shine!


#5: The ACT Is Lighter on Algebra Than the SAT

The ACT makes up for its relative lack of algebraic heft by shining the light on geometry and trigonometry more so than the SAT.

This, then, is largely a matter of taste and your sense of preparedness. If you're not a fan of algebra, but you do really with geometry and trigonometry, opt for the ACT.


#6: The ACT Permits Calculators Throughout the Math Test

The SAT has a calculator portion and a no-calculator portion of the Math test. The no-calculator questions on the SAT are generally the kind a calculator wouldn't help much on anyway, but, still, if you really rely on having those buttons to push, the ACT is your test.

This also applies if you simply dislike the kinds of calculations that you can do by hand. If you like crunching unwieldy numbers better than manipulating expressions by hand, go for the ACT!


body_calculator-9.jpgMake sure you're comfortable with that calculator, though!


#7: The ACT Does Not Have Any Grid-Ins

Student-produced response questions, or grid-ins, are the ones where you supply your own answer, as featured on the SAT. These questions don't exist on the ACT, meaning you always have answer choices handed to you to work with.


#8: The Essay on the ACT Wants Your Opinion

Well, technically, it doesn't care whose opinion you give, but you do need to argue a case by evaluating and analyzing complex issues of relevance to humanity and life as a whole. 

The SAT's essay, on the other hand, is all about reading comprehension and literary analysis. If you're a better debater than you are a literary detective, the ACT may be your test.


#9: The ACT Is Required by Some States

Any high schooler going to school in certain states will be required to take some form of the ACT, either with or without writing. There's not much choice to be had if you live in one of the states in question.


Conclusion: Why Take the ACT?

In this article, we've seen a number of reasons to take standardized tests, including keeping college options open, winning scholarships, and even appealing to potential employers. We've also looked at some reasons that the ACT may fit students better than the SAT, like the inclusion of a science section and the relative lack of emphasis on algebra.

If you're going to take the ACT for any of these reasons, make sure you spend some time preparing. Your level of comfort will be much higher if you prepare ahead of time—and, most likely, your results will be better, too.


What's Next?

If you've decided that standardized testing is for you but aren't quite sold on the ACT, read a more dedicated discussion on which test might be right for you.

Maybe you are sold on the ACT, though. Are you wondering what kind of score is going to get you where you want to go? Take a look at our guide to what qualifies as a good score—and why it's so subjective.

You can also take a moment, if you're aiming for a perfect score, to read about how to get there.


Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.

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Vero Lecocq
About the Author

Vero is a firsthand expert at standardized testing and the college application process. Though neither parent had graduated high school, and test prep was out of the question, she scored in the 99th percentile on both the SAT and ACT, taking each test only once. She attended Dartmouth, graduating as salutatorian of 2013. She later worked as a professional tutor. She has a great passion for the arts, especially theater.

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