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07/23/2020 at 10:44PM

Should I take the SAT or the ACT?

I’m about to be a senior and I was just wondering should I take the SAT or ACT. I know people’s opinions differ with some preferring one over the other, but I just want a general opinion. Most people say take both practice tests and see how you do but i don’t really think i have the time to do that. SAT testing starts next month and ACT starts the month after so i really just need to pick one now and study hard for it.

Majority of the people I have spoken with have said that the ACT is easier to take/do good on but the con is that they give you less time to answer than the SAT. I have read that the ACT has more straight-forward questions and easier concepts, but the SAT has a longer time. So my question is for anyone who has taken both or know a lot about these tests, which one do you advise me to take? Right now I’m leaning on the ACT because I‘d rather have easier questions just with less time than harder questions with more time but anyone please just let me know.

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2 answers

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07/23/2020 at 11:00PM[edited]

There is no official advantage over taking SAT over ACT in terms of admissions but schools have a slight bias towards the SAT since it is older and thus they have more experience with it. If you take the ACT you will not be any less qualified than if you take the SAT, but the SAT is taken by more people. If you are around the same score in either test, just take the test that you are the most comfortable with. If you don’t know honestly just sit down and spend two days taking practice tests. If you’re so antsy about “wasting” time then you can prep in between or do some studying in between sections to feel like you’re being more productive.

IMO here is the breakdown:

ACT is better if… you do well under pressure, are good at science/statistical analysis, are not too great at reading or don’t have exceptional reading comprehension skills, are an efficient test-taker who doesn’t need lots of time to think things over. It’s a little bit easier than the SAT and also carries a little bit of a disadvantage where if you’re going for elite schools you need a top score (33+) which, compared to the SAT equivalent, is many fewer wrong answers. The curve is worse for ACT than SAT.

SAT is better if… you don’t do well under (timed) pressure, are good at complex reading analysis (ACT reading is shorter, more to-the-point and less thematic where SAT reading is polar- broad themes and/or highly specific questions), you’re aiming for a decent score like 1300-1400+ cause there is a beneficial curve in that range.

The biggest thing for me was timing; I’m actually slightly better at the ACT than SAT but taking the exam was immensely more stressful than the SAT due to timing constraints. I prefer having lots of extra time to check my work, not panic if I get stuck, or think more deeply about my questions/answer choices.

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@cp83907/24/2020 at 02:17AM [edited]

I agree with everything you said except that the curve is worse for the ACT than the SAT. A lot of the raw to scale curves that can be found online are harsher than the actual test. (e.g I missed 5 on the English section and got a 35 while according to princeton review's chart that's a 33). It's also a myth that you have to get every question right on each section to get 36s.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 03:08AM

@cp839 How was the ACT? Why did you decide to take it over the SAT and what are your personal pros and cons about it?

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 03:10AM

@crsgo0422 Thank you for the information. I think I’m just gonna study for and take the ACT. Many people have told me they do better on that and time is really a problem for me. I don’t go back to double check my answers, as long as I answer every question that’s all I care about.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 03:10AM

sorry for the typo. I mean time isn’t really a problem for me*

@cp83907/24/2020 at 03:23AM

I actually took both because my school district paid for everyone to take the ACT. My pros are the reading section (much simpler provided you can get through it fast enough) and the math section (calculator active throughout and more time than it might seem.) My cons are that it's simply more stressful. Even though like you I don't go back to double check my answers, the test goes by really fast and your mind can't afford to get stuck on something.

@cp83907/24/2020 at 03:28AM

Also the SAT being slower paced makes it more relaxed IMO. I had more time to chill if I finished early and I didn't have to be super tight about my pacing. if you weren't a senior I'd say take both but I think the ACT sounds like it works well for your criteria.

@DebaterMAX07/24/2020 at 07:48AM

I agree the sat is slower(ish) paced. M test style seems to be super similar to ours and I easily prefer the SAT

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 01:14PM

@cp839 I’m actually pretty good in basic English language so the reading and English part should be easy for me. The math I have a little trouble with but with studying and practice I’m sure I can do good on that section too. The science part is the is the only section that I might have trouble with but with its curve I think if I did good on all the other 3 seconds I would at least get a 30+ on the SAT which is my goal. I’m not looking for any 33+ for any Ivy Leagues, just a 29-32 would be goof

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 01:14PM

good*

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 01:15PM

all the other 3 subjects* sorry again lol

@crsgo042207/24/2020 at 01:46PM

lol it’s fine, good luck!

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 04:54PM

@crsgo0422 thank you! Btw do you have any tips for studying? You said you got a 35 i think so what did you do to get that score?

@crsgo042207/24/2020 at 05:04PM [edited]

sure! i actually didn’t study that much cause i didn’t take the actual exam; I got a 33/ 35 on the pre act which is equivalent to a 34 on the act and i took this oct of my soph year. the test was obviously easier but i’ll give you my advice anyway. i think it’s the same for sat as well, so i’ll tell you what i’m doing :)

@crsgo042207/24/2020 at 05:06PM

for math- most of the questions are (relatively) easy so i would recommend spending minimal time on actually learning... don’t just go through the math section of a review book since it is SO LONG; i recommend you just do the math section of a practice test and then jus focus on the types of questions you get incorrect. they’re probably gonna be similar so either geometry, algebra, word problems, visual/model problems, etc. spend more of your time on just practicing and checking your answers

@DebaterMAX07/24/2020 at 05:07PM

Also for English pick the shortest coherent answer

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 05:07PM

Oh wow you’re lucky I wish I got that for mines. Well yes tell me when you find out.

@crsgo042207/24/2020 at 05:08PM

for science- sorry i can’t help you there much i did really poorly on this section (28) with a lot of guessing... all i can say is you have to get really good at analyzing scientific graphs, drawing conclusions based on data, you also need to know chemistry pretty well cause they test that but also a little bit of bio/physics/earth science

@crsgo042207/24/2020 at 05:09PM

haha thank you! just to clarify i meant it was a shorter/ edited version of the ACT so i probably wouldnt do that well on the actual thing, prob a 33 or a 34 so i guess there wasn’t a huge deficit between that and my baseline sat (which was a 1520-1530 at the same time of the year based on my psat)

@crsgo042207/24/2020 at 05:12PM

yes for english- here’s how i do it- read the answers first, pick the questions that either are explain this word in context, quote-based, interpreting a sentence, etc... the specific ones so that you don’t have to read through the passage before you answer the questions. reading the whole passage is a huge time waster. all you have to do then is go back and try to answer the generic “main idea” questions with the best of the background knowledge you have, and if you’re still stuck go skim text

@crsgo042207/24/2020 at 05:12PM

hope this helps!

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 09:10PM

It does help. I will make sure to remember these tips! Thank you so much.

@cp83907/25/2020 at 01:20AM

Just another tip for science because I got a 36 on that section - Learn the question formats! They're always the same and even if you're not naturally proficient on the section, you can overcome that by understanding how to find the answers quickly. IMO science requires no outside knowledge and is purely based on analysis because the question always asks you to find something that is given.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/25/2020 at 03:06AM

Thank you! With the right practice I’m sure I can do it. Wish me luck... I need it lol

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07/24/2020 at 12:18AM

So the ACT is the base line at most Midwest/great plain schools. The SAT is the baseline everywhere else. There is no preference to either one though.

The ACT you have around a minute per question but the questions themselves are more straightforward. The ACT also has a science section that is part graph reading and part science. If you took biology chemistry physics you should do fine.

The SAT you get more time but they are more intricate. Essentially it’s more 3 step than 2 step (metaphor). Also the SAT has subject tests that are considered in admissions especially at the ivies. The ACT doesn’t have that.

Hope this helps and comment if you need clarification.

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[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 03:06AM

I know the basics about both tests but I was just asking from others experience or knowledge which one do you think I should take and possibly why? Which one did you take? And why?

@DebaterMAX07/24/2020 at 08:02AM

So I took the PSAT haven't taken ACT or SAT yet but planning on both. On a mock ACT I didn't do to well on the PSAT I did better. When converted to ACT scores the PSAT was better by 3. If you can quickly solve intricate problems or just need time the SAT is for you. The ACT is better if you can do things quickly and have no problems with science as science can trip you up badly. Id say the SAT is the best for you based on your comments but I cant say. Also does your school pay for a test?

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 01:05PM

Yes my school gives me 3 free waivers to take either test. That’s kind of why I just want to pick one and study for it right now so that when I do take it I have 3 times to perfect my score. Honestly I’m kinda torn because I can’t quickly solve intricate problems like the SAT but I also am not the best with timing/pacing. So there’s a weakness for me in both tests.

[🎤 AUTHOR]@KDennis07/24/2020 at 01:06PM

Like I said I’m leaning on the ACT because it’s more straight-forward. I rather have trouble with time and no the actual content itself on the ACT than have more more time but gets confused at all the multi-step problems they throw my way on the SAT.

@crsgo042207/24/2020 at 02:19PM

yeah you sound like you’re aware of your strengths and that it will be better for you to take the act so i just say go for it