Should I Take the ACT or SAT®?

At Tutor Doctor, we know choosing between the ACT and the SAT® can be a difficult decision! When it comes down to it, students should take the test best suited to their needs. Here are three important questions that you may want to ask yourself before registering for one of these challenging exams!

1. What are my college choices?
In general, this is the biggest factor in deciding which test is right for you. Some schools are “test flexible,” meaning that the applicant can submit scores from just one test. Other schools may require specific tests for all applicants. The best thing to do is to check what test your college of choice requires!

2. What are my academic strengths?
Students that are strong in mathematics may find the ACT preferable. Although both exams test high level math concepts (like algebra), the ACT is known to have a wider array of questions and significantly more geometry and trigonometry problems. In addition, whereas the SAT® provides mathematical formulas for test takers, the ACT does not (meaning you have to memorize them). The good news is that a calculator is allowed on the entire ACT math section. On the SAT, a portion of the math section is strictly “no calculator.”

Another important difference between these two tests is that the ACT has a science section, whereas the SAT® does not. Despite the name, the ACT’s science section doesn’t necessarily test knowledge of scientific material, but rather critical thinking and a student’s ability to interpret data and graphs. Due to some of the scientific terminology used in this section (density, mass, solutions, solvents, etc.), students that excelled in science or biology classes may be more comfortable with this portion.

3. What is my test taking style?
The SAT® and the ACT both cater to different test taking styles. If you are a student that has trouble managing time during tests, the SAT® may be a better option for you. The SAT® has significantly less questions (154 in 3 hours to be exact), which allows students to spend more time on each. The ACT, on the other hand, has 215 questions in 2 hours and 55 minutes, so the test is quite a bit more compressed. According to The College Board, the SAT® averages to 1 minute, 10 seconds per question, whereas the ACT clocks in at 49 seconds per question. If you are good at time management, the ACT’s quicker and more dense format may be better for you.

Another important topic to mention is the optional essay section both tests offer. This is required by many colleges and universities, and both tests have different styles of essays. On the SAT, a student will be given a source text that they have to read, and is then asked to write an essay that tests their comprehension of the source material’s argument. On the ACT, the essay focuses more on critical evaluation of complex issues, and the student is required to form their own argument. Neither is necessarily easier – it all depends on what writing style you feel more comfortable with!

Can’t I just take both?
Absolutely! There is a misconception that some schools “weigh” one test more than the other. In reality, all U.S. colleges accept both tests. As mentioned before, some colleges may be “test flexible” and allow students to choose one over the other. Both tests cost roughly the same, and both focus on similar concepts.

Investigate what test your college of choice requires (if any), and take the test that is best suited to your academic strengths and test-taking style.

If you need help deciding which test is right for you, please contact us and one our Tutor Doctor education experts will be happy to assist!