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Shoud I take the SAT or ACT? The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Your Test

The SAT versus The ACT

For some people, the choice between the SAT or ACT is obvious; for others, not so much. If you’re struggling to decide whether you should take the SAT or ACT, look no further. This article will detail the similarities and differences between the two tests, as well as provide advice on what kinds of students may suit each test.



Why Are Standardized Tests Important?

Whether you decide to take the SAT or ACT, submitting standardized test scores can help colleges get a clearer sense of the type of student you are, as well as present you with opportunities for merit-based scholarships. Taking the SAT or ACT can be an easy way to ensure that your application stands out from the others.


A College Student
Submitting the SAT or ACT score will help you stand out among other students in the application process.


What’s the Difference Between the SAT and ACT?

Both the SAT and ACT aim to gauge students’ ability to apply their skills in college and real-life scenarios. However, though they serve a similar purpose, their structures differ. Thus, each test lends itself to a different set of students. Differences between the two tests can be seen in numerous aspects:

SAT

ACT

Length

​3 hours

2 hours and 55 minutes

Structure

​Reading - 65 minutes

Writing & Language - 35 minutes

Math (Non-Calculator) - 25 minutes

Math (Calculator) - 55 minutes

​English - 45 minutes

Math (Calculator) - 60 minutes Reading - 35 minutes

Science - 35 minutes

Sections

Reading - 5 passages, 52 questions

Writing & Language - 4 passages, 44 questions

Math (Non-Calculator) - 20 questions

Math (Calculator) - 38 questions

​English - 75 questions Math (Calculator) - 60 questions

Reading - 4 passages, 40 questions

Science - 6 passages, 40 questions

Concepts

​Math:

  • Arithmetic

  • Algebra I & II

  • Geometry

  • Trigonometry

  • Data Analysis

​Math:

  • Arithmetic

  • Algebra I & II

  • Geometry

  • Trigonometry

  • Probability & Statistics


Scoring Systems

​Scale of 400-1600

Scale of 200-800 per section

​Scale of 1-36

Average of English, Math, Reading, and Science scores = Composite score


How Do I Know if the SAT is for Me?

The SAT is typically thought to be well-suited for those who are stronger in the humanities, such as reading and writing. However, this rule does not always hold true. While it is true that the SAT can feel easier for strong critical thinkers, the SAT has been found to be more compatible with well-rounded students. This may be due to the scoring system, as both the verbal (Reading & Writing) and math (Non-Calculator & Calculator) hold the same weight, each out of 800 points.


With an average of 1 minute and 50 seconds per question, students have more than 3 times the amount of time to deliberate on their answers than on the ACT. This is because the SAT consists of questions that require critical thinking, as most answers will not be immediately straight-forward. Now, some may find these types of questions intimidating, while others find them appealing. Thus, it is essential that you take time to discover the type of student you are, in order to choose the test that is best-suited for you.


Beyond critical thinking, the SAT can be well-suited for students who excel in vocabulary and grammar, as these subjects are not as prevalent on the ACT.



How Do I Know if the ACT is for Me?

The ACT tends to attract an opposite crowd; however, there is still some overlap. Experts have observed that the ACT can work well for students with imbalances in subject strength. This is because the 4 section scores average out to create the composite score, balancing out any weaknesses.


Want to know if the ACT is for you? Are you strong in reading comprehension? A fast worker and reader? Skilled in science and math? If the answer is yes to these questions, then the ACT may be perfect for you.


In addition, if you’re an anxious tester, the predictability and consistency of the ACT may make the test the best choice for you.



Final Note

The decision between the SAT and ACT can seem daunting, but taking the time to analyze your skills will ensure that you choose the best test for you. However, if you are still lost, a fool-proof way to determine which test to take is to take a practice test of each and compare your scores. Remember, this process can take some trial-and-error, so don’t be afraid to experiment in order to make sure you have the best chances of getting your best score.



Take a Practice Test to Find Out Which Test Is for You

Want to know which test is right for you based on your strenths and weaknesses? Take a 15-minute or 45-minute practice test online to know which test you will do better on. The score of one test will be converted into the score of the other test, allowing you to learn your current position and potential for both tests by taking just one test. Go ahead and take the test right now!

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