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How Do I Choose Between Taking the SAT or ACT?

The SAT and ACT have many similarities as well as many differences. Here's some quick expert advice on deciding which standardized test to take.

Valerie L. SimmonsValerie L. Simmons
Senior Assistant Director of Admission
King's College
You should take the test that fits your learning and test-taking style best. Take a minute to think about what type of questions you feel most comfortable with and which sections (math, writing, sciences, vocabulary, etc.) you prefer. The ACT is a shorter test, and the questions tend to be more straightforward and knowledge based, but it has a science section and tests more advanced math concepts. The SAT focuses more on vocabulary and can have abstract questions, but the test is broken down into more sections so you will have more breaks. Both tests are widely accepted, so really think about what kind of test taker you are, and don’t be afraid to take a different test than your friends. Everyone has different strengths, and as a result, some students do much better on one test or the other.

Eric GreenbergEric Greenberg
Director and Founder

Greenberg Educational Group, Inc.
Today, college admission departments do not typically have a preference between the tests—it’s up to the student. The decision as to whether the student should take the SAT or ACT is no longer determined by convention. Rather, it is valuable to investigate which test would be more successful for the student. The SAT and ACT present questions differently. The SAT is more about decoding problems, while the ACT is more about what the student has learned in the classroom. While much of the content of both tests is similar, the tests do have some varying content; for example, the SAT tests vocabulary while the ACT tests science. As such, diagnostic testing for the SAT and ACT can be a very important way to help determine which test to take.

CX experts generic imageRhiannon Schade
Director of College Counseling
Collegewise of Millburn

First, it’s important to note that colleges and universities typically do not have a preference between the SAT and ACT. (Even scholarship providers that review test scores generally do not have a preference.) So it really comes down to the student’s personal inclinations. However, one test may be more ideal for the student than the other. Start by taking a full-length timed practice test of both the ACT and SAT and compare your results. Did you score higher on one than the other? Did you feel much more comfortable with one of the tests versus the other? After you have practice test results, you can make a sensible decision about which test to pursue.

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