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SAT vs ACT

Admissions tests for entry into college are vitally important, and with both ACT and SAT options to choose from, both of which are accepted by all US colleges, which is the best for you?

It really depends on what type of person you are when it comes to studying and learning.

It’s about whether your strengths lie in gaining and remembering skills and knowledge or whether you’re better able to think through and evaluate questions and arrive at answers.

Why choose ACT?

ACT requires 4 core tests in English, math, reading and science with an optional written essay. These tests are all about the skills and knowledge that you’ve learnt in high school. ACT measures what you’ve achieved so far. Therefore, if you find studying easy and you remember knowledge, ACT could be the one for you.

ACT scores are very easy to understand for you and the college; with each of the 4 main tests scoring from 1 to 36 and an overall ACT score from 1 to 36 as an average of your 4 scores.

The plus point is that they provide additional cross subject scores to highlight your skill strengths. ACT provides scores on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) combining your math and science scores and on ELA combining your English, reading and writing scores.

Why choose SAT?

SAT’s 3 key tests in reading, writing and language, and math (with an optional analysis essay), test the critical thinking and verbal reasoning skills that you’ll need for college and not how well your memory can recall certain facts.

If you struggle to recall what you’ve learnt in high school but you love evaluating and analyzing questions to find a solution, then SAT should be your first choice.

Depending on the course you’re going to be studying at college, many colleges may require specific subject based tests and with SAT you can take SAT subject tests in science, history, languages, literature and math as well as the main SAT test.

These will test your knowledge in your chosen subject and each test is one hour long.

Are ACT and SAT similar at all?

Yes, in many ways they are:

ACT vs SAT
Six dates throughout the year Test dates Seven dates throughout the year
$56.50 Test costs $54.50
2 hours 55, plus 40 minutes for optional essay Test length 3 hours, plus 50 minutes for optional essay
Thousands round the country Test centers Thousands round the country

You also sign up online to book your tests, view scores etc., via CollegeBoard.com for the SAT and ACT.org for the ACT.

In addition, it’s brilliant that fee waivers are available for eligible students for both tests and colleges are openly stating they place equal weighting on both sets of tests.

I’m still undecided, what should I do?

If you’re still not sure whether ACT or SAT is right for you, it’s possible (though considerable hard work to prepare and practice) to take both tests and you can take them multiple times.

As the scores for both ACT and SAT give you comparison data to other students taking your test both in your state and across the country, you can then see which test ranks you in a higher % when compared to your fellow students and then submit this result to the colleges you’re applying to.

If you don’t want to give yourself double the headache of taking both ACT and SAT tests, then you may want to consider taking just practice papers on both (available free online and your high school should also have past test papers).

Once you’ve taken several practice papers and reviewed your practice test scores, it should be clear which test you’re more likely to excel in.