SAT vs. ACT – Which Test Is Right for You?

It’s your senior year at high school and soon you’ll be going off to college. But before that happens, you need to take the SATs or the ACTs and submit your best score along with the college applications. Now this raises a big question. Which test is right for you?

If you ask others for their opinions, there’ll be a set of folks who’d vouch for the SATs and another similar pack claiming ACTs are a better option. It’s an endless debate and there is no right answer to this question. The more you think about it, the more confused you can get.


What Is SAT?

Scholastic Aptitude Test or simply SAT is a content based model entrance test that students take to get admission into colleges in the US. They have been re-designed from 2016 and are now called New SATs.

SAT is divided into 4 sections: Math, Reading, Writing & Language and the Essays section. Essays are optional. As per the new model, a student gets scored on a scale of 400 to 1600, with 400 being the minimum marks that can be obtained.

SATs are 3 hours long without the essay section and 3 hours and 50 minutes long with the essay, and held seven times during the year.

What Is ACT?

American College Testing or ACT is another content based college entrance test that checks the skills attained by students in high school.

ACT has 5 sections that tests students for their Math, English, Reading, Science and Essay writing skills. Like the SATs, the Essays section is optional. Students are scored on a scale of 1 to 36.

ACTs go on for 2 hours and 55 minutes (without essay) and 3 hours 40 minutes (with essay). There are six available dates in a year to take the ACTs.

Students can take both SATs and ACTs multiple times during their junior and senior year. Although, 3 times should be enough to choose the best score.

So, What Do I Do Now?

Before diving into any conclusions, let’s get one thing straight. SATs and ACTs are two sides of the same coin. It’s really as simple as that. They both are treated as equals and you’ll be spending the same amount of time studying. It takes lots of preparation to crack them both.

Every college in the US accepts both SAT or ACT scores and then grades you on the basis of your individual performance in the test. You must submit only one test score (either SAT or ACT).

In the end, it all comes down to your own intuition and gut feeling to decide which one suits you the most. So here’s a little help to make the right choice:

Why SATs

You have a good vocabulary: SATs challenge you with hard vocabulary questions and passages. You need to be a good reader and writer to do well on this.

Don’t want to deal with science: SATs do not have a dedicated science section with problems on quantitative thinking like the ACTs have.

Give good explanations: The new SATs have introduced evidence type questions where your conclusion must be supported by an explanation, referencing to a particular part of the passage.     

Can work without a calculator: If you’re good with doing basic calculations without the need for a calculator, then SATs are for you.

Want to complete the paper: It’s almost impossible to finish all the sections of the ACTs. Only a few who score over 30 reach close to the feat of completing all the questions. That’s not a problem with the SATs.

Why ACTs

Can handle time crunch: There’s more time available to answer the SAT questions (since the questions are complicated). But if time limits don’t bother you, and you can move easily from one section to the other, stick to ACTs.

Good with geometry: Can you remember formulas? ACTs have thrice as much geometry as compared to the SAT math section.

Hate overlaps: ACTs have particular questions dedicated to particular sections and there’s no mix up of concepts over different sections. But SATs have concept integration among sections.  

Like argumentative essays: The essays of ACTs need you to give an opinion on a certain argument rather than discuss someone else’s opinion.

On the face of it, the new SATs are easier than the ACTs. Does that mean you should take the SATs instead? Maybe. But remember, colleges pick a candidate based on score comparisons with other candidates. If you think SATs are easier, there are a thousand others who may think the same way. You’ll need to perform exceptionally well to pip them. 

Still Confused?

Can’t make up your mind still? Dont worry. You can test your skills in the junior year by taking both the SATs and ACTs. That way, it’s easier to decide which one suits you the best.

Take each test at least twice and match the results. Use the SAT to ACT score convertor to match the scores. The test which shows a better score is the one you should consider taking in the future. Stick to that decision, start preparing and by the time it’s your senior year, you’ll have 6 (or 7) more chances to appear for it.