At Tutor Doctor, we know choosing between the ACT and the SAT can be a difficult decision. Both tests are used interchangeably in college admissions, but there are a few key differences between the two exams so students should take the test best suited to their needs and academic strengths.
To make things a little easier, we’ve narrowed it down to 5 important questions you may want to ask yourself before deciding which of these challenging exams is right for you! Also check out the infographic below for a quick reference guide to help you decide.
1) 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, math questions on the ACT have five multiple choice answer options, whereas the SAT’s questions only have four. This gives the SAT a slight advantage over the ACT when it comes to guessing.
Probably the biggest difference is that the SAT provides you with a page of mathematical formulas, whereas for the ACT does not (meaning you’ll have to memorize them).
Another important difference – if you hate doing math by hand, the good news is that a calculator is allowed on the entire ACT math section. On the SAT, however, a portion of the math section is strictly no calculator.
2) Am I comfortable with science?
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 specific 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 have trouble managing time during tests, the SAT may be a better option for you. The SAT has significantly fewer 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.
4) Do I enjoy writing?
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, you will first be given a source text to read, and then asked to write an essay that examines your 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 or opinion. Neither is necessarily easier – it all depends on what writing style you feel more comfortable with!
5) Should I take both tests?
There is no advantage to taking both tests with college admissions, so we recommend focusing your efforts on one test. Check out the infographic below which provides a few key differences of the tests to help you decide which is best for you.
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! Click here to learn more.