How to Choose Between the SAT and ACT

by | Feb 17, 2017 | Testing


Testing is still a big part of the college admission process for most colleges and students will likely have to take either the ACT or the SAT as part of their applications. The good news is that colleges that require testing have no preference over which one students take. However, that can cause families some stress as they try to decide which one would be best to take, or both!?

Here we boil down the differences between the two tests to help you decide, and give some bottom line advice to make things much easier.


Differences between the tests:


Math & Science

The truth is that the 2016 redesign of the SAT made the test much more similar to the ACT. The main difference is that the ACT has four sections: Math, Science, Reading and English; while the SAT has three sections: Math, Reading and Writing. The Math sections on both exams are quite similar, however the ACT allows students to use a calculator on every question but the SAT limits calculator use. The ACT has a Science part of the exam that the SAT does not have. However, it’s important to note that the Science on the ACT is not formulas or scientific theories, but more interpreting graphs and charts.



Timing of Reading

One of the major differences between the two tests is the timing of the Reading sections. The ACT allows 35 minutes to answer 40 questions, whereas the SAT allows 65 minutes to answer 52 questions. So, students who are quick and strong readers tend to do well on the ACT.



Bottom Line

It’s difficult to predict which test you will do better on without taking a practice of each. Additionally, there is no sense studying for and taking both tests since all colleges will take either one.


Therefore, Campus Bound recommends students take a practice of each test (colleges will never see the scores of these) and then compare the results of each. Additionally, students should compare the experience of each test (which one was more stressful or difficult?) and then chose ONE to focus on. By focusing on EITHER the SAT or ACT, students aren’t spreading their time and energy thin by studying for two different tests. They can pour all their resources into one test and do the best they possibly can on that test.


Campus Bound counselors are experts at helping students choose which test to take, and we are happy to help! Contact us today.

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