ACT or SAT: Which One Should I Take?

Many students do not take enough time to consider the option of taking the ACT or SAT test. Before you invest hundreds (if not thousands of dollars) in test preparation, make sure you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each test. Once you decide, don't forget to read my personal book recommendations for the ACT and for the SAT.

Every good tutor or test prep company should be asking these questions before deciding which test, the SAT or ACT, would be the best one for the student. Below are the types of questions that I ask my students before deciding which test to take and ultimately score highest on. For an overview comparison of the differences between the tests, click here.

Which Test Did I Score Best On?

Every student should take a practice ACT or practice SAT before deciding on a test prep plan. The last thing you want to do is spend a ton of money and time preparing for the wrong test. If you have already have an ACT or SAT score and you would like to compare the two test scores, please click here. It is important to understand how your scores on each test compare to one another BEFORE you begin the test preparation process.

Which Test Format Feels Best: ACT or SAT ?

If your scores are relatively the same, then pick the one you felt most comfortable taking, whether that be the ACT or SAT. After taking the practice tests, most students will know which one is better for them even before grading them. Go with the format that feels right.

How Much Time Do I Have for Test Prep?

If you do not have a lot of time to prepare and you are a solid student (strong in Reading and Math), your best bet might be the SAT. Why? The SAT test only has two main sections (Reading and Math) and no Science section (only the ACT has that), so there are less things you need to learn to do.

Am I Stronger in Math and Science?

If you are stronger in Math and Science, consider taking the ACT test. Why? The SAT benefits strong readers and writers whereas the ACT benefits students strong in math and science. The math on the New SAT is mainly word problems, which can actually be very difficult, more time consuming, and more frustrating for students in advanced Math of Sciences.

Am I a Fast or Slow Test Taker?

The ACT is a fast test. Many students struggle to finish all of the sections on time. So if you know you are a slower test taker, then you may do better preparing for the SAT. If you are almost finishing sections on the ACT, and the questions you are answering are correct, you might just need more practice to learn to manage your timing.

Take Both Tests?

Now that the ACT and the new SAT have much more overlap than previously, it may make sense to take BOTH the SAT and ACT. The main differences in preparation will be the essay prompts (which are very different) and Math format (the SAT has more word problems and one section in which students cannot use a calculator), but many of the testing strategies from either test will carry over as long as the student familiarizes themselves with good SAT prep or ACT prep materials.

News & Updates

Several times each week, I post articles and test taking tips about the SAT and ACT tests as well as college admissions. These blog entries are a great way to keep current with what is happening in high school test prep and college admissions. So please bookmark this page (or subscribe to my RSS feed) and let your friends and family know about!