Back to Main page

SAT or ACT: Which one is right for me?

sat or act

It used to be easy. Where you resided geographically simply determined whether you would take the SAT or ACT. We grew up being misled with the concept that the best colleges across the nation prefer SAT scores. The truth is an increasing amount of colleges are empowering their applicants to make the choice themselves. They realize that they are different tests tailored for different minded individuals, and no one is better than the other. So now what? The choice is yours; here are three key differences to help you pick the right one:

Note: Please keep in mind that this is relevant to the current SAT. Major changes coming to the SAT test format March 2016.

1. Aptitude VS. Achievement

At their core, the main difference is how they test. While the SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning skills and verbal abilities, the ACT is more of an achievement test, measuring concepts students have learned in school. The SAT involves a more creative application of concepts, involving much interpretation whereas the ACT is more straightforward.

2. Test Format

SAT ACT
Critical Reading English
Mathematics Mathematics
Writing (Required) Reading
Science
Writing (Optional)

The SAT is notorious for its heavy emphasis on vocabulary. Out of all the horrific rumors about the SAT, this one is true. If you consider yourself someone with a powerful vocabulary, you may have an advantage on the SAT.

The creators of the ACT however, did not feel that a strong vocabulary indicated excellence in academic performance. They placed greater emphasis on advanced math and science. The term “science” is used loosely to describe this section of the ACT, as it really has nothing to do with chemistry, biology, physics or anything else “science-y.” It really just entails interpreting graphs and using information in charts accurately.

3. Time management

The last thing to be considered when deciding which route is best for you is your time management skills. The ACT is essentially a test of timing and you have less time per question overall. Whereas the SAT gives you more leeway in terms of missing a few questions, missing questions on the ACT can prove to be extremely detrimental. Ask yourself if you can immerse into 4 hours of non-distracted, mentally exhausting work and commit to it. If not, the SAT may be a better option for you.

Our advice? Take both. Or at least take the practice tests for both. Try to take them with as realistic conditions as possible to get a good feel of what the exams would actually be like. Know that your score is just a benchmark, and to focus more on the format of the exam. And remember, Tutor Troops is always here to help you understand what kind of test taker you are, and to help you accomplish your target score. Best of luck!

Official SAT Practice Test: https://satonlinecourse.collegeboard.org/SR/digital_assets/assessment/pdf/0833A611-0A43-10C2-0148-CC8C0087FB06-F.pdf

Official ACT Practice Test: http://cty.jhu.edu/talent/docs/2014ACTPreparing.pdf