Every year, clients ask us, “Which standardized test should I take, the SAT or the ACT?” Like most questions pertaining to the college admissions process, the answer is “it depends.” But playing to your strengths as a student and as a test-taker is important to keep in mind when making this decision.
- Do you work at a fast pace? The ACT has more questions, so students have less time per answer. This may be a plus if you like to move quickly on exams, but a negative for students who prefer to take their time.
- Are you a strong, fast reader? The SAT’s reading section includes more passages and utilizes classic texts with more arcane language. Also, the correct answer is often harder to select among the multiple choices. Strong readers likely will do well on either exam, but the SAT may be the test for you if you are a more broad-based reader who has been exposed to different types of writing in different subject areas.
- For math, lots of choices to consider… The ACT allows calculators for the entire math section, but it assumes students have memorized basic formulas. For the SAT, it’s the opposite: students are provided a reference table with useful formulas but can only use a calculator for some questions. And if geometry is your jam, then the ACT is the test for you! The SAT focuses more on algebra, word problems, and questions that ask you to incorporate information from tables and charts into your calculations. Approximately 10% (six questions) are concepts from advanced algebra/precalc, however.
- Science?! Ugh!! The fact that there is a “science” section on the ACT scares off many students. Truthfully, you don’t need to know much scientific theory to do well on this section. If you are able to read, analyze and interpret data from charts and graphs and utilize strong visual processing skills to draw conclusions, then you will do well on the ACT’s science section.
When ultimately deciding between the SAT and the ACT, either test is accepted by colleges, so set yourself up for success by choosing the test that showcases your strengths and results in the best score possible.
For a visual comparison of the two tests, this infographic from Applerouth is very helpful. https://www.applerouth.com/testcomparison/