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SAT vs. ACT: Which Test is Right for You?

1. Which of the following should students focus on when preparing to apply for college?

  • A. SAT scores
  • B. ACT scores
  • C. Neither
  • D. It depends on the student!
Photo Credit: CaCollegePrep.com

ACT and/or SAT. It depends on the student.

When it comes to college admissions, many parents and students wonder if it’s best to focus on achieving a high ACT score or whether they should turn their focus to the SAT test. The answer is, D. It depends on the student. When it comes to the ACT vs. SAT, there are several factors to consider. Just make sure you check the requirements of all the schools you plan to apply to as some require one over the other.

Format: When it comes to the ACT vs. SAT, one distinguishing characteristic is the format. As the Princeton Review explains, “ACT questions are often easier to understand on a first read. On the SAT, you may need to spend time figuring out what you’re being asked before you can start solving the problem.” Generally, the SAT tests logic, while the ACT tests knowledge. One way to find out which format might be better for your student is to have them take the practice tests during their sophomore year of high school; they cover very similar material in a similar style and are good indicators of how well your student will do on the SAT test or what they might receive as an ACT score.

Length: As New York Times columnist Michelle Slatalla asks, “How long can you sit without fidgeting?” The ACT is nearly an hour shorter than the SAT, so if your student has a hard time sitting still for long periods of time, it might be better for them to pass on the SAT test and focus on getting a higher ACT score. She goes on to share that those that have trouble processing information “may do better on the ACT…the SAT is more nuanced, puzzle like, trickier.”

Achievement: Every student is learns at a different pace and level. Some are more academically driven in class whereas others have better reasoning and logic skills. The SAT, traditionally a logic and reasoning based test, is suited for students with strong reasoning skills regardless of how well they do in class. The ACT however, being an academic test, is more catered towards academically driven students who tend to receive high marks on school exams.

Gender: For some reason, gender seems to play a role in the ACT vs. SAT debate as well. Slatalla explains, “Boys as a group do better on the SAT, according to data published by both testing companies.” Although this doesn’t mean every boy should take the SAT test and every girl should focus on achieving a higher ACT score, it is another factor to consider.

Ultimately, choosing the ACT vs. SAT really depends on the student. Peterson’s explains, “The vast majority of students perform comparably on both tests…however, if you’re short on time and money and want to put your efforts towards test prep for only one of the tests, your best bet is to take a few practice exams.”

Want to know more about whether your student should take the SAT test or focus on a higher ACT score? Westface College Planning can provide helpful resources when it comes to college admissions, financial aid and more. Contact us or reserve your seat for our next Tackling the Runaway Costs of College workshop!

This Money for College blog was written by Beatrice Schultz of Westface College Planning. For more Money for College tips, sign up for a free College Funding       workshop or webinar.

Photo Credit: CaCollegeprep.com