SAT or ACT?
Wondering Which Test or Class to Take?
For a detailed analysis, read the full article on our blog: ACT or SAT: Which Test is Better?
There is no simple answer. Any college or university asking for standardized test scores will accept EITHER exam– no preference is given to one or the other. (You will find Texas historically was an SAT state while the ACT was more popular in the mid-west, but those are old divisions.)
Some students will do better on one test than the other, but neither is easy. Most student have similar scores on the SAT and ACT.
Ignore the old rumors that say one test is more like school or the other test is better for students applying to highly-selective universities. These rumors are NOT true. Both tests are challenging. Both tests are equally weighed by any college asking for standardized test scores.
The difference comes down to personal preference. Here are some practical considerations to guide your decision:
- Compare scores from previous or practice tests. Make sure you are using NEW SAT scores. You can use this concordance table from College Board.
- If you haven’t taken either test, obtain an official full-length practice test at no cost from the ACT and College Board websites. See our resource page for links to these exams.
- Does one test highlight your strengths (or minimize your weaknesses) better? Super stars of math often prefer the SAT where math accounts for 50% of their scores. Other students might prefer the ACT because math makes up only 25% of the overall score and they can raise their average with higher scores in English and Reading.
- Does one test offer a better format? Some students like the variety of the ACT (English then math then reading and science). Others prefer doing all the reading and grammar before doing all the math on the SAT. This is a personal preference.
- Does one test / class better meet your schedule? Check for conflicts with school holidays, sports or extracurricular, and family activities.
Unless your previous scores say otherwise, go with your gut. Take the test that feels most comfortable to you.
My Professional Observations:
Since the SAT changed in March 2016, I’ve had more students see better improvement on the ACT; I feel it is a more coachable exam.
The ACT is the right test for
- Average, below average, and slightly above average test takers
- ANY student with extended time requirements due to learning differences
- Students who are not math superstars. (Math is 50% of the SAT, but only 25% of the ACT score.)
- Students who have not completed or do not feel proficient in Algebra II. (Lots of Algebra II on the SAT and almost none on the ACT.)
- Most students
The SAT is the right test for
- Superstars of math. (The SAT tests numerous Algebra II concepts and counts math as 50% of the overall score. Math stars love that there are fewer other sections to “drag down” their exceptional math scores.)
- High scoring test takers — top 10%. (The PSAT is the only way for top test takers to earn National Merit Scholarships; students preparing for the PSAT should take the SAT while the content and strategies are fresh.)