A guide to the ACT and SAT

The ACT and SAT are standardized college admission tests that most schools require to be taken for entry. These scores can contribute to at least 50% of the admission decision, so it’s necessary students do well on these tests for a strong application.

The good news is most four-year colleges and universities don’t distinguish between the two tests, so students can take whichever they prefer. However, if possible, it is encouraged to take both tests just to have the scores in pocket.

Some two year colleges don’t require applicants to take the ACT, so it’s important to do research on the school before registering for the tests. Taking the tests multiple times to receive a better score is highly encouraged.

The ACT and SAT logos [Photo Source: Granbury]


There are four multiple choice sections on the ACT, including English, mathematics, reading, and science. There is also an optional writing section, but not many colleges require it, so research to see if it’s necessary. These subjects are meant to measure students on the necessary skills needed throughout college.

In the English section be prepared to read a variety of passages, to distinguish between rhetorical devices, and to demonstrate an understanding of grammar. The reading section is all about comprehension:

Specifically, questions will ask you to determine main ideas; locate and interpret significant details; understand sequences of events; make comparisons; comprehend cause-effect relationships; determine the meaning of context-dependent words, phrases, and statements; draw generalizations; analyze the author’s or narrator’s voice and method; analyze claims and evidence in arguments; and integrate information from multiple texts.


The math section consists of many of the concepts learned in 11th grade plus basic background knowledge and formulas. The science portion will include biology, chemistry, Earth science, and physics.

The questions require you to recognize and understand the basic features of, and concepts related to, the provided information; to examine critically the relationship between the information provided and the conclusions drawn or hypotheses developed; and to generalize from given information to gain new information, draw conclusions, or make predictions.


The four tests are averaged together and scored from 1-36; the 2021 national average composite score was a 20.6. Different schools have different acceptant scores. North Georgia requires a 19-26, but Harvard requires a 33-35.

ACT sections descriptions [Photo Source: Mometrix]

Cherokee High has a promising average ACT score of 22.3, and the county closely compares with 22.6.

Register for the ACT at ACT.org; there are also many accessible resources available on the site for test prep.


The importance of SAT scores vary from school to school; however, along with high school GPA’s, past classes, extracurriculars, and letters of recommendations, colleges do use the score to determine readiness and to compare applicants.

Most students take the SAT either spring of junior year or fall of senior year because it is vitally important to have time to retake the test if the score does not meet the school’s requirements. Unlike the ACT, the SAT only has two sections: math and evidence-based reading and writing. There is also an optional essay portion.

Fun fact, guessing is encouraged when uncertain of the answer.

On the SAT, you simply earn points for the questions you answer correctly. So go ahead and give your best answer to every question—there’s no advantage to leaving them blank.

College Board

The standardized test is scored out of 1600 points. The composite national average is 1051. Comparably to the ACT, colleges differ when it comes to the SAT scores. For example, North Georgia does not require a score, while Harvard demands at least a 1460.

Standard SAT Structure [Photo Source: Inner Genius Prep]

For Cherokee High School, the average SAT score is 1114, and the county is slightly behind with a total of 1100.

Register for the SAT on College Board. This site also contains many other helpful features, including practice tests and scholarship information.

Dates for ACT

  • Sept. 11; Oct. 23; Dec. 11; Feb. 12; April 2; June 11; July 16

Dates for the SAT

  • Aug. 28; Oct. 2; Nov. 6; Dec. 4; Mar. 12; May 7

From a young age students are taught to have everything figured out by the time they reach high school. Then they’re bombarded with choosing a major, a college, and a pathway. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when adults are saying these choices will shape their future.

Don’t feel threatened by the constant stress; talk to a counselor, teacher, or parent about building a plan and executing it.

The Warrior Word staff wishes good luck to all the CHS students taking the ACT and SAT this year.

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