Assistance for Getting into the College of Your Choice
SAT or ACT? Which Test is Right for You?
The questionnaire on the right will help you decide which test to take.
All four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. accept both the SAT and the ACT as a qualification for admission. There are, however, significant differences between the ACT and the SAT (which was revised in March 2016). It is advisable to think carefully about which test to take, because effective preparation to take the one test will not be the same as preparation to take the other.
The new SAT and ACT are like two different sports – baseball and basketball, for instance. In baseball there is a certain set of skills you want to learn: batting, throwing, etc. In basketball, a different set of skills is required; you work on improving your dribbling, jump shot, free throw, etc. Now of course you can play baseball and basketball too. But if you want to do really well in one of these sports, then you concentrate on that one. The same is true for the SAT and the ACT.
Please note that the common assumption that the ACT is “easier” than the SAT is mistaken. It’s true that these tests measure different kinds of skills. For that reason, some students will do better on the SAT, while others will do better on the ACT.
Of course, if you love tests, then take both the SAT and the ACT, by all means! But it’s best to settle down with one of these tests and study for it intensely, taking the same test several times if necessary to improve your score. And of course, if you already have a lot of experience getting prepared to take one of these tests, then you may do better staying with that test rather than switching over to the other.
To find out more about which test – SAT or ACT – you should take to get a high score, answer the seven questions on the right side of this page. The results of this questionnaire may tell you which of the two tests is best suited to your skills and interests.
On some of these questions, you may find that both choices, A and B, apply (or fail to apply) to you equally. If you do not lean toward one choice or the other, then leave the question blank.
For additional guidance about which test will be better for you, you can take both an SAT practice test and an ACT practice test and then compare the results.
The ACT may be the better test for you if:
1. You like to read and you read quickly with good comprehension. Even the science section of the ACT relies mainly upon reading and reasoning skills, and requires little knowledge beyond that provided by the questions themselves. So even if your science knowledge is quite limited, you can do well on the ACT science section. When you are reading on your own, beyond your school assignments, you like fiction — such as a short story or novel — as well as non-fiction, such as an article on history, politics, or popular culture.
2. You do well in school. The ACT is more curriculum-based, and ACT questions tend to be more straightforward than SAT questions.
3. You do better in your English, history, and social studies classes than in your math classes. ACT math is not quite as difficult as SAT math.
The SAT may be the better test for you if:
1. You did great on the PSAT. Please note, however, that taking the PSAT does not lead naturally to taking the SAT rather than the ACT. Depending on your skills and interests, you may do better following the PSAT with the ACT rather than the SAT.
2. You like math puzzles and brainy computer games. SAT math is a little more difficult than ACT math.
3. Usually you would rather read non-fiction — such as an article on history, politics or popular culture – than fiction, such as a short story or novel.