two paths sat or act

As many of you are well aware, the standardized testing world has seen a tremendous shift over the course of the last few years. As recently as five years ago, the decision to take the SAT or the ACT was largely based on where you were planning on going to college. Many colleges required one or the other. Today, every college in the country will accept scores from either test when considering admissions. This shift has caused a ripple effect across the high school landscape as students, counselors and parents adjust to this practice and try to figure out how to proceed most effectively.


Keep in mind that many students will decide to take both exams; in fact, we recommend that you do so and then prepare more for the one you are more comfortable with. For many students, preference between tests will come down to personal test taking styles but there are a few major differences that you should be aware of before making your decision.


Some of the major differences include: 

  • You are penalized for guessing wrong on the SAT. This is not the case on the ACT. 
  • The essay portion on the ACT is optional. 
  • The SAT has shorter sections- there is constant stopping and starting. Since the ACT has longer sections, time management is even more important. 
  • With the ACT you can choose which scores the colleges see, with the SAT, all scores are sent. 
  • Some math on the ACT is more difficult than that on the SAT and includes trigonometry, logarithms and imaginary numbers.
  • The ACT has a science reasoning section. This section DOES NOT test your knowledge of science but rather your ability to process information from tables and graphs. 
Deciding which test to take does not have to be a stressful situation. The best advice we can give is to get yourself familiar with each test and figure out which format you are more comfortable with. Performing at your best on exam day has as much to do with confidence as anything else so the more comfortable you are, the more likely you are to perform at your best.

Photo by rhruzek.