The SAT, originally known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test but now known solely by its initials, is the main standardized test used by colleges to determine the quality of applicants in The United States, covering reading, writing (which is now optional) and math. Generally, taking the SAT is considered a culminating moment in a teen's education and is the subject of much stress and studying. Its lesser known competitor is the ACT, which serves the same purpose but isn't necessarily the same thing. The main differences between the SAT and the ACT are:
- The SAT is more popular at private schools and schools on the East and West Coasts (mostly the latter two).
- The ACT is more popular at public schools and schools in the Midwest and South (mostly the latter two).
- The ACT also covers science and social studies in addition to reading, writing and math—the writing section on the ACT is also optional.
- Each section of the SAT is worth 800 points while each section of the ACT is worth 36-points (a student's composite ACT score is the average of the student's scaled scores for the test sections they did—whether or not they did the writing section in addition to the four required sections).
- Before 2016, the SAT had a "guessing penalty"—an incorrect answer took away points from a student's raw score. The ACT has never had such a penalty.
- Business school: GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)
- Dental school: DAT (Dental Admission Test)
- Law school: LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
- Medical school: MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)
- Pharmacy school: PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test)
The SATs as depicted in fiction frequently provide examples of:
- Achievement Test of Destiny: For a long time, the SAT has reigned as the most important factor in college admissions. However, general grades seem to have overtaken it. Also, some colleges these days don't require students to take the SAT or ACT to get in (but students are still encouraged to take the test).
- The B Grade: A common reaction by a straight-A student to getting a good, but not perfect, score (it's nearly impossible to actually get a perfect score on the SAT or ACT).
- Bland-Name Product: Sometimes works don't refer to the test as the SATs, sometimes not referring to the test by name or simply inventing a new one.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Many students who do well on the SATs but have subpar grades are this. It's common for such characters to be able to test well, but not maintain enough focus to do well in school.
- Child Prodigy: They're usually claimed to have aced their SATs at an early age.
- Golden Snitch: The SATs are sometimes portrayed as so important that otherwise bad students can get in anywhere if they do well enough.