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SAT or ACT: Which is right for you?

There’s a lot of advice about whether to take the SAT or ACT, and very little of it is helpful. The best way to see which test is better for you is to take a full mock exam of each and see which one you like better (or more realistically – you hate less).

There are many similarities between the two exams, but each test has aspects that make it better suited for certain students and worse for others. Here are the basics:

Take the SAT if:

The SAT favors students who can handle uncertainty and work through questions that seem complicated at first read. Students who should take the SAT can apply their knowledge to new question types, as SAT problems force students to be flexible with their knowledge, especially in math and grammar.

In addition, math counts for half of your SAT score but only a quarter of your ACT score. If you’re great at math and not so great at reading and grammar, the SAT might be for you.

Take the ACT if:

The ACT favors students who work quickly, read well and are not science-phobic. ACT questions are closer to regular schoolwork and are, in my opinion, fairer than SAT questions. That said, the ACT is about speed. If you’re not a fast worker, especially a fast reader, the ACT will be a challenge.

As we say above, math counts for 50% of your score on the SAT, but it only counts for 25% on the ACT. If you absolutely despise math, the ACT might be for you.

Take a full test of each and compare your scores.

There are other differences between the two exams − but it’s difficult to tell how these differences will affect a particular student.

Avoid mini-exams that give you 10-20 questions from each test. These mini-exams don’t account for speed or stamina: it’s like walking a mile to see how you’ll do on a marathon.

Again, the best way to tell which test is better for you is to take a full mock exam in both. Schools don’t value one test over the other. If a school accepts both the ACT and SAT, then it values both tests equally.

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