SAT vs ACT: Which Test is Right for You

There are two standardized tests that can play a crucial role in your college application process.  The SAT and ACT exams are designed to measure your academic readiness for university life. Many universities and colleges require scores from either of these tests as part of their admissions process. However, how do you decide which test to take? In this guide, we’ll talk about the similarities and differences between the SAT and ACT, and help you make an informed decision. Whether you’re a high school student preparing for college or a parent helping your child with their application process, read on to learn more about SAT vs ACT.

SAT vs ACT: Similarities and Differences

The SAT and ACT have similarities and differences. For one, they are administered by recognized organizations. The College Board organizes the SAT, while ACT, Inc. provides the ACT. Both are written tests with multiple-choice questions. However, the SAT may include items wherein you need to input your answers yourself.

The ACT covers English Writing and Language, Reading, Math, and Science. Students can also take the Essay test, although this is optional. The SAT covers English Writing and Language, Math, and Reading. Both tests are about two to three hours long. 

In terms of scoring, ACT scores are on a scale of 1 to 36, while SATs score range from 400 to 1,600. Typically, colleges have a set score for both tests that they deem are good enough for admission.

The ACT includes more questions, with less time for each. On the other hand, there are fewer questions on the SAT. However, the questions can be more challenging, so you need more time to answer them.  

SAT vs ACT: Which Test to Take

Knowing the test content could help you make a decision on which exam to take. The SAT has been considered an aptitude test for many years. On the other hand, the ACT leans more on testing students on how well they understand their curriculum in high school. Each test requires a different strategy. So, it’s better to choose one test instead of preparing for both. 

Each exam may be suited for different types of students. For example, if you are good at Science, you might prefer the ACT because of its Science section. However, keep in mind that the Science test given by the ACT does not focus on General Science topics but on Science reasoning. The Reading section also includes passages on Science, which tests your reading and comprehension skills, as the questions are more on critical thinking. 

If Math interests you, you can take the SAT or the ACT, as both have test sections for this. The SAT divides the exam into non-calculator and calculator sub-sections. However, the SAT is slowly transitioning to its digital format, which will allow using the calculator for the whole exam. The ACT allows students to use a calculator for the entire test. 

It’s recommended to take a timed full practice test for each test. Then, you can base your decision on which test to take on essential factors, such as how you handled time in each exam or how many questions you were more confident or comfortable answering.

There’s no truth in the myth that some colleges prefer the SAT over ACT or vice versa. All US colleges and universities accept scores in standardized tests and base their decision on your test scores and other admission requirements. 

SAT vs ACT: Preparation

By now, you understand that your test scores play a big factor in your college admission. So, you should start your test preparations early. The College Board, which administers the SAT, recommends giving yourself two to three months to prepare. For the SAT, you can access its free practice test from its partner, Khan Academy. If you link your accounts with College Board and Khan Academy, you can have a study guide. 

On the other hand, the ACT provides free practice test resources that will help you become familiar with the test. The organization recommends identifying the subjects where you are weak so you can take additional coursework in those subjects. 

Whether you are taking the SAT or the ACT, make sure you know the content areas and prepare well to increase your chances of obtaining a high score. Create a study plan, work hard to stick to it, and find to rest and relax to avoid burnout.

Your Test Score Is the Key

Proper preparation for the SAT or ACT tests will help you get a high score. Your test score determines your admission to a college of your choice, increases your chances of getting admitted, and possibly, helps you qualify for a scholarship. Therefore, you should know the requirements of the college and the content areas of the tests, stick to your study plan, and do practice tests.