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  • Writer's pictureDonna Baines

SAT or ACT? Which test is best for me?

The SAT and ACT are two standardized tests that are widely used in the United States for college admissions. Although many colleges are now test-optional, we still highly recommend students prepare for and take the exam. Here are some key differences between the two tests:

  1. Content: The SAT has a heavy focus on critical reading, writing, and math, while the ACT tests students on English, math, reading, and science. The SAT has an optional essay section, while the ACT has an optional writing section.

  2. Format: The SAT is broken up into four sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math (No Calculator), and Math (Calculator). The ACT has four sections as well: English, Math, Reading, and Science, plus an optional writing section. The ACT includes more questions overall, but the SAT allows for more time per question.

  3. Scoring: The SAT is scored out of 1600, with 800 points for Math and 800 points for Reading and Writing. The ACT is scored out of 36, with each of the four sections receiving a score out of 36, and then an average score is taken.

  4. Time: The SAT is three hours long, while the ACT is two hours and 55 minutes long (or three hours and 35 minutes if you choose to take the optional writing section). Both tests also have breaks built into their formats.

  5. Question types: The SAT includes multiple-choice questions, as well as some questions that require students to fill in a grid with their answers. The ACT is primarily composed of multiple-choice questions, but it also includes a few questions that require students to fill in a blank with their answers.

  6. Strategy: The SAT is often considered more strategy-based, meaning that students may need to employ specific test-taking techniques to do well on the exam. The ACT is considered more straightforward, with fewer tricks and more direct questions.

Ultimately, both the SAT and ACT are widely accepted by colleges and universities, but they have different formats, content, and styles. It's important to consider your individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as the requirements of the colleges you plan to apply to when deciding which test to take. Check out these free resources to better understand the differences between tests.

When working with clients we recommend taking both the SAT and ACT to see which test students perform better on and following this timeline. Our clients are given complimentary diagnostic tests through Arborbridge. ArborBridge specializes in individual, virtual tutoring for the SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests. Founded in 2009, their vision is to bring personalized, one-on-one instruction to students anywhere in the world. Arborbridge uses comprehensive assessments and a modular curriculum to ensure that each student sees maximum improvement.

We also keep a list of local tutors available for virtual or in-person sessions.

Many students do not need to take a test with the writing section but should check with their consultant or the college to see if it is required.

Book your first free career or college planning session today!

Donna Baines

Baines College Consulting, LLC

Donna has 20 years of college admissions and financial aid experience. She has helped thousands of high school students all over the United States with their college and career goals.

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