SAT vs. ACT

on January 31, 2017

One major decision prospective college students will need to make is whether to take the SAT or the ACT. Though both tests have similarities, they are different.

 

Ultimately, the best strategy is to take the exam that gives you the best chance at success. The majority of colleges accept both exams, but you need to know the differences between the tests to make the best choice for you.  

 

Are You Better at Science or Math?

 

One major difference between the two exams is that the ACT has a science section and the SAT does not. The SAT, however, has an additional math section.

 

If you feel like science is one of your strengths, then the ACT may be the test for you. If not, the SAT might be your best bet.

 

Keep in mind that only one of the SAT math sections allows a calculator. You've got to be comfortable with mental math if you take the SAT.

 

Timing is a Factor

 

The approximate time students are allocated for each question on the ACT is 50 seconds. On the SAT, students spend about 1 minute and 10 seconds on each question.

 

On the ACT, scores are scaled comparatively. This means that if you’re good at quickly answering questions, you're more likely to score higher on the curve for the ACT. If you need more time to deliberate on each question, then it would be wise to stick with the SAT.

 

Although it is feasible to sit for both exams, dividing your time between the two tests can be a losing strategy. Preparing for one exam won’t necessarily help you on the other. Many students, however, decide which exam they prefer by taking the ACT and the SAT before committing to one for a retake (after intense preparation).


The differences outlined above should help guide you through the decision process, but there's no substitute for the actual experience of taking both tests — or comparing both scores. Remember, the only way to achieve a good score is preparation.

Can I get Into...

We Know Your Chances. Do You?

What Are My Chances