ACT vs. SAT: What Is The Right Test For You?

DavidSeffTutoringThe ACT and SAT have both rolled out some changes recently, changes which have made the tests much more similar than ever before. However, these changes do not mean that the ACT and SAT are interchangeable tests. There are still a number of important differences between the two tests. Depending on your personal testing style, you will likely score much better on one test over the other. That is why it is important for you to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each test so that you can get the highest score possible.

What To Figure Out Before Diving Into The Specifics:

What Do Your Top Choice Schools Prefer?

While a number of schools accept both tests, there are some that still only accept one or have a strong preference for one test over another. If the schools that you are interested in have a strong preference for one of the tests, then you should focus all your efforts on the test that will be most readily accepted by your schools of choice.

What Is Your Application Timetable?

Both tests are offered at certain times of the year. However, the SAT offers many more opportunities to take the test over the course of the year. To ensure that you are properly prepared to take the test, you may want to choose the test that will provide you the necessary amount of time to prepare for the test.

Take A Practice Run

While this advice can help guide you in the right direction, you should not make any final decisions until after you have actually taken a full practice test. Although you will have to devote a lot of time towards taking and scoring these practice tests, you will definitely thank yourself for putting in the time at the beginning. You will be spending a considerable amount of time studying for the exam, so you might as well figure out what test you like more and are better at already.

Here Are The Important Distinctions Between The ACT And SAT:

Precision vs. Generalization

The ACT places a greater emphasis on discrete information while the SAT looks to highlight the student’s ability to generalize information. These principles are not absolute on either test; you will need to do a little of both on each test. However, if you are stronger at one over the other, you may be more inclined to take the test that emphasizes these strengths.

Reading Comprehension Speed

For each passage in the reading section on the SAT, you will have about 13 minutes to answer 10 questions. On the ACT, you will only have about 8½ minutes to complete the same number of questions. If you struggle with comprehending the meaning of a reading passage, the SAT may be the better test for you.


Even though the SAT had a major overhaul, they still did not add a science section. If you have performed well in your science classes at school, then you should capitalize on this strength by taking the ACT. Furthermore, if you are looking to go into one of the STEM fields, the ACT gives you the opportunity to showcase your skills in ways the SAT does not.

Test Pace

The ACT (215) has a lot more questions than the SAT(154). The SAT also gives you more time: 180 minutes total (plus 50 for the essay) compared to 175 minutes (50 for the essay) for the ACT. With that in mind, the SAT definitely has a much slower pace to it, while the ACT will have you moving through the questions at a faster pace.