3 months ago
Admissions Advice

Should I take the ACT or SAT?

I'm trying to choose between the ACT and SAT. I am pretty good at reading comprehension and that sort of stuff. On the other hand, I'm average at math. When I took the pre-ACT without studying, I got a 28 on my reading score and a 24 on my math score. I can probably work on my math skills and improve my score. I'm also average at English/grammar and a little above average with science.

I also prefer to have more time per question on a test. Should I study for the ACT or the SAT?

Also, do colleges indirectly prefer one or the other? (Specifically the UMN Twin Cities) The "baseline limit" for the subject I want to major in requires a 1400+ SAT or a 33 ACT score. I also need to do well on the test I choose because my GPA is a little lower than where I want it to be.

Thanks in advance!


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3 answers

Accepted Answer
3 months ago[edited]

The SAT/ACT is equally considered by colleges unless comparing a 1600 SAT vs a 36 ACT (colleges prefer the former). Although, I doubt that will be the case for most people unless you're in the top 0.1%.

Why? Statistically speaking, it is much harder to score a perfect score in the SAT than the ACT. Every year, roughly 4-8 test-takers get a perfect SAT score. The ACT rounds up its score when calculating the composite: if you have a 35.5 average, it is rounded up to a 36. This means you can still earn a 36 if you get a 36 in two sections and a 35 in two sections, or a 36 in three sections and a 34 in one section.

Main differences: (harder meaning more topics tested, more or less)

SAT Reading is harder than ACT Reading

SAT Math is easier than ACT Math

SAT Writing has fewer questions than ACT English

SAT does not have a science section but the ACT does. The science section is basically another reading section that requires lots of reading comprehension.

Generally, ACT questions have less time per question, but they are easier (except the Math section). SAT is the opposite: more time per question, but harder in general (except the Math section).

SAT no longer has an essay (it used to offer a rhetorical analysis on a scale of 1-24) but the ACT does have an essay (argumentative on a scale of 1-12)

Preparing for the SAT does have one advantage though: it prepares you for the PSAT, which most high school students take in the USA to be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship. The PSAT, simply put, is just an easier SAT.

3 months ago

The key thing here is not necessarily what your preferences are but which format suits your test-taking ability that translates into a higher score. So you really can't make a sound decision until you take a practice 3.5 hour SAT and ACT on separate days. Once you self-score these or use Khan Academy to score the SAT, you will know something important. While it's completely possible that your concordance scores between the two will be exactly the same, I think you will find that either the ACT or SAT is better suited for your test-taking style under pressure regardless of your preferences.

I spent way too much time trying to get my EBRW scores up on the SAT, I was never the best math student but I managed to score 750+ consistently on the SAT. I'm much much better at English so I couldn't understand why I was getting less than 750.

Then I switch to the ACT and found that it was way easier for me to get the 35s in English and Reading on the format but harder to get the 35s in Science and

Math even though those sections are 50% shorter than the SAT. The ACT only has 1 math section, not 2 sections like the SAT.

After taking various online courses, I got my Science and Maths up to 35. After a couple of real tries at test centers, I was able to get 35s across the 4 areas.

So that's why I think you should take both and see what happens. Also, colleges are completely agnostic as to which one you submit, if you decide to submit a score.

Good Luck.

3 months ago

Many schools offer an SAT or ACT school day. I would suggest taking both, if possible. I would have guessed that I'd do better on the SAT, but I actually did way better on the ACT. If only one is offered for free at your school, take that one! If you don't do well, try to take the other!

For studying, I think any study would help with either test. I think Khan Academy is the easiest (and free!) study site for SAT. I haven't found anything as good for the ACT, so I would focus on studying for the SAT.

From what I know, colleges don't tend to have a preference for either test.


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