ACT or SAT?

Which one should you take?

The SAT and ACT are more similar than ever before (see below). While studying for one you are effectively studying for the other.

You need to know the following: College applications are about COMPARISON, and not about absolute value. You’re not evaluated based on how good you are – you’re judged on how good you are compared to all the other applicants.

These tests are graded on a curve. Your performance is scaled, and your final score is based on how you did compared to everyone else.

This means that you should take the test that gives you the biggest competitive edge. The SAT might be “easier,” but it’s easier for everyone who takes it. The ACT might be “harder,” but it’s also just as hard for all the students who are taking it alongside you. The scale will come into play – if you can use that scale to your advantage, you’ll end up with the best college application possible.

The short version: if you’re awesome at fast-paced assignments and can stay focused for long periods of time, you have a huge competitive edge on the ACT. You can use those skills to blow the other students taking the ACT out of the water.

If you’re not so good at fast-paced assignments (if you prefer to take your time and think things through, or if you usually don’t finish your tests in school), the ACT will be a total nightmare. You should probably take the New SAT instead.

 

SAT ACT
Why Colleges use SAT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships. Colleges use ACT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.
Test Structure

Math-Reading-Essay (optional)

Writing and Language

 

Math-Reading-Essay (optional)

Writing and Language

Science

Length

3 hours (without essay)

3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)

2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)

3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)

Reading 5 reading passages 4 reading passages
Science None 1 science section testing your critical thinking skills (not your specific science knowledge)
Math

Covers:

Arithmetic

Algebra I & II

Geometry and Trigonometry

Covers:

Arithmetic

Algebra I & II

Geometry and Trigonometry

Tools Some math questions don’t allow you to use a calculator. You can use a calculator on all math questions.
Essays Optional. The essay will test your comprehension of a source text. Optional. The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.
How It’s Scored Scored on a scale of 400–1600 Scored on a scale of 1–36