We recommend that students take the test they’ll get a better score on. For most students, the ACT is the easier test to prep for and to take. However, for some students, the SAT is a better fit. Colleges do not have a preference for one test over the other.
The SAT material is high-level and complicated. It requires critical and nuanced thinking, whereas the ACT is pretty straightforward.
In addition, the SAT math section has some challenging aspects that the ACT does not. Students are not allowed to use a calculator for 20 of the math questions. Also, twenty percent of the math questions are “grid-ins” instead of multiple choice. To respond to that type of question, students have to enter their own solution rather than choosing from a list of provided responses.
In our experience, the SAT can be a better match for students who are strong reading and math students but who benefit from more time than the ACT provides. It might also be the right choice for students who are anxious about the ACT science section because the SAT doesn’t have a science test. However, preparation makes the ACT science section much less intimidating, so we’d want to assess the student’s overall strengths and weaknesses before making a recommendation.
If your child is on the fence, we encourage them to take both practice tests. If they score significantly better on one over the other, that’s the test they should take. If they end up with similar scores, they should take the test they felt more comfortable working through. If they don’t have a preference, take the ACT!
If you’re still not sure about the best path for your child, give us a call!
|Subjects and Timing||2 hours and 55 minutes for 215 questions|
English: 45 minutes for 75 questions
Math: 60 minutes for 60 questions
Reading: 35 minutes for 40 questions
Science: 35 minutes for 40 questions
Optional Essay: 40 minutes for 1 prompt
|3 hours for 154 questions|
Reading: 65 minutes for 52 questions
Writing & Language: 35 minutes for 44 questions
Math (no calculator): 25 minutes for 20 questions
Math (calculator): 55 minutes for 38 questions
|Calculator||Allowed on entire math test||Allowed on longer math section|