SAT vs. ACT – Which test is right for you?

Now that it’s prime time to start studying for the SAT and ACT, we’ve had a lot of students ask us which test they should take.

Nowadays, most colleges accept the SAT and ACT and weigh scores from both tests equally, so that’s no longer a reason to take one test over the other.

The College Board recently redesigned the SAT and it is now quite similar to the ACT. Both tests now have optional essays and no guessing penalty. The SAT also no longer has a “random vocabulary” section, which used to be a big deal breaker for a lot of our students. Instead, the SAT has a vocabulary in context section. The SAT also has less geometry than the ACT.  We’ve covered the all differences in a handy graphic below.

Redesigned SAT vs. ACT

Redesigned SAT vs. ACT

So, which test should you take?

As for which test you should take, it really depends on how you do on the SAT and ACT – the most notable difference is timing.  If you are a slow reader, you will probably object to the fast pacing of the ACT.  But if you think about it, both tests produce scores that fall on a bell curve and so someone who scores 50% on one test will probably score 50% on the other.

The best way to determine which test is right for you is to take both an SAT and ACT diagnostic, and compare your scores using the College Board concordance table (shown below).

Redesigned SAT to ACT Concordance Chart via College Board

Redesigned SAT to ACT Concordance Chart via College Board











Because the tests are so similar now, a combined course lends itself well to the changes on the SAT. If you’re a fairly high scorer and score similarly on both tests, you may want to consider taking both the SAT and ACT and sending both scores to colleges – this will strengthen your college application.

Remember, some colleges request that you do the optional essay, regardless of which test you choose. Be sure to check your colleges’ requirements before registering for a test.

Just as a reminder, we offer SAT courses, ACT courses, combined SAT/ACT prep courses, and individual tutoring. You can register for the courses and tutoring here. We also offer a free ACT diagnostic periodically; email to arrange a time.


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