How do I choose whether to take the ACT or SAT or both?Answered
I'm currently a freshman and I took practice tests for both of them (twice each). For the SAT, I got a 1460 and then a 1410, and for the ACT, I got an ACT superscore of 32 on both. I live on the East Coast in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area and I'm not sure if the SAT on the coasts and ACT in the Midwest saying holds true or if it really matters. On the SAT, I tend to do better on Math as opposed to Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, but on the ACT, my English score is the highest and the other 4 sections are lower by a few points but are around the same. I currently don't know if my strong suit is humanities or STEM yet, so I want to know the differences between both of them and how I could take advantage of the different sections of the tests. For the ACT, getting a perfect score requires virtually no incorrect answers, which is very impressive, but the SAT is similar to the PSAT so in studying for the SAT, I can boost my PSAT score as well to hopefully qualify as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. Any advice?
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Things like the "SAT coasts/ACT Midwest" binary have grown a lot less significant over the years, and at this point there really isn't any particular preference from most colleges between the two exams. The general advice is usually to study for and take the one you feel better suited for. The difference in studying is that the ACT is a knowledge exam and the SAT is a reasoning exam—so you can more or less study material for the ACT like you would for a traditional test, while studying for the SAT is more about taking practice test after practice test to build up a particular repertoire of skills.
It's also usually easier for most students to improve their scores on math sections than reading ones, so if you're struggling with the SAT reading section but not the ACT English, it might be easier to improve your ACT than your SAT.
Taking both and then deciding which one to pursue further is something you can do when your scores are as close as they are. Also let me add that you don't need to get everything right on the ACT to get a 36. I actually think the margins are worse on the SAT. You can miss a couple questions on each section on the ACT but you really can't do that on the SAT. Having taken the tests, I think your statements about SAT being easier for Math and the ACT being easier for English/Reading holds true. The main difference everyone knows is the timing which I'm sure you've noticed. The SAT allows much more time per question because it has less. In my opinion the SAT has more time but less margin for error and the ACT has less time but more margin for error. To make a choice, think about the mistakes you made and determine if it's because of the test or if it's your own mistake due to content. Don't feel to pressured to choose though. I studied for the SAT but got a 36 on the ACT and I know others who also did better on the test they didn't study specifically. You're early to this which is good and if your practice tests are accurate then you'll be scoring very highly by your junior year.
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