Many students and parents ask us what’s better to take the SAT, ACT– or both! If you are not sure which test is a better fit, your first step should be to take a full length mock test under timed conditions for each test. That way, you can compare your scores, analyze which sections you did well and poorly on, and identify your strengths and weaknesses. You may find one a more natural fit or easier to get a higher score. It also depends on whether your school requires either one or the other.
Do more people take ACT or SAT?
Both exams are very commonly taken by high school students in the United States and around the globe. In 2020, an estimated 2.2 million students took the SAT at least once, while 1.7 million students took the ACT. Thus, while slightly more students took the SAT, overall the two exams both attract a very large number of students.
What are the content differences between the SAT and the ACT?
In terms of content covered, the most obvious difference is that the ACT includes a science section. If you don’t like science or want to reduce the quantitative element as much as possible, then the SAT may be the better choice. On the other hand, if you have a firm grasp of scientific concepts and experimental design, then the ACT science section is a chance to shine. The other sections of the exams are quite similar. To learn more about the differences between SAT and ACT English sections, see our dedicated article here.
What are the time differences between the SAT and the ACT?
One of the biggest differences between the SAT and ACT is time pressure. On the SAT, you have quite a bit more time per question, so you will feel less of a time crunch even though the questions are actually more difficult. On the ACT, however, you must complete more questions in a shorter period of time.
Which test is harder?
The best answer to this question is that it depends. In terms of content, the ACT tends to be a bit more straightforward and less “tricky” than the SAT. Overall, SAT questions tend to require more critical thinking. Although the ACT may be more straightforward, you are required to answer those questions in a much shorter period of time. So if you don’t perform well under timed pressure, then it might make more sense to take the SAT. Another difference between the exams is that the ACT only has one math section, and you are allowed to use a calculator throughout the entire section. On the SAT, in contrast, there are two math sections and you can only use a calculator in the second math section (which, fortunately, is the longer section).
What about the essay?
SAT test takers can breathe a sigh of relief. The Covid-19 pandemic has actually accelerated the College Board’s plans to eliminate the essay section and, beginning next year, the SAT will lack the essay section. While in the coming years the ACT may follow suit, at the moment, it still offers an essay as an optional component of the exam. Overall, the essay is becoming less and less important to college admissions. Many universities no longer require it. As a result, it is important to check your prospective universities admissions requirements.
Still not sure which test to take? Need help with SAT or ACT prep? Reach out to us today. We’ll help you get started.