Dean of Admission Greg Roberts

As high school juniors and seniors prepare for standardized testing, many ponder the pros and cons of taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the American College Testing Assessment. Either test is accepted by the UVA Office of Admission, but each has unique characteristics.

What is the difference between the ACT and the SAT? 

As the school year begins, high school juniors and seniors begin to prepare and register for standardized testing.  Both the Scholastic Aptitude Test and the American College Testing Assessment are used in the college admission process.  Either test is accepted by the UVA Office of Admission.

The SAT, administered by the College Board, has three sections:  critical reading, math and writing.  On the whole, the SAT tests logical reasoning and critical thinking skills. The pre-test of the SAT is the PSAT that most high school sophomore and juniors take.  The PSAT is the determining factor in the National Merit Scholar program. 

UVA will “superscore” a student’s SAT scores.  “For example, if a student takes the official SAT three times before applying to college, UVA will select the student’s best reading score, best math score and best writing score, and combine them,” says Greg Roberts, UVA dean of admissions.

The ACT has four sections, plus an additional segment for writing.  “When applying to UVA, students must take the ACT with writing because written communication is an invaluable asset in the UVA first-year experience,” Roberts says.

The four sections of the ACT include English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning.  When compared to the SAT, the ACT tends to be more content-based, Roberts says.  As such, some students may feel more comfortable with the format due to its similarity to academic work.  Nevertheless, most students find the science reasoning section to be challenging. When preparing for the ACT, students should practice reading charts and applying data to critical thinking questions.

“Because UVA accepts both and favors neither the SAT nor the ACT,” Roberts says, “students should take the test that best fits their abilities.”