(DISCLAIMER: This list is written for students who plan to take these tests BEFORE February of 2016. If you’re going to take it after February, watch the new SAT® vs ACT® video)
Some of my students really have no idea which test to take, but I get a lot of students who have already made up their mind on this question– but who may actually be better off taking a different test.
What I’m going to do today is go through the top myths vs. facts students say when choosing to take the SAT® over the ACT®– and then you can decide for yourself– SAT® or ACT®?
1. “Colleges prefer the SAT®, so I’m taking the SAT, not the ACT®.”
That is a big fat lie. Harvard, Princeton and nearly every other Ivy League school has gone on record and said they do not favor one test over the other, and they accept both equally. It is possible that some university out there prefers one test over the other. That’s probably true. But on the whole, you can take either.
2. “I am going to take the SAT® because I’m studying for the PSAT so that I can become a National Merit Finalist and qualify for scholarships– and the SAT® is almost the same test, so I might as well just take the SAT®.”
True– but for the most part applies to top test takers (top 2%).
3. “I am terrible with timed tests. I run out time with the ACT®, but not on the SAT®. I’m really slow at reading comprehension and math and everything else, and I have a better chance of actually finishing the SAT® than the ACT®, so I am going to take the SAT®.”
It’s true that you need better time management skills for the ACT®. So if you struggle with time, the SAT® might be the better choice for you.
4. “I am going to take the SAT® because I never took Pre-Calculus.”
It’s true that the ACT® has Pre-Calculus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll do better on the SAT®. The hardest problems on the ACT® are Pre-Calculus, but you might also get problems wrong on the SAT®. You really have to take both math sections of each test to see which one you score better on.
5. “I am going to take the SAT® because I hate science.”
The science section of the ACT® is not what you usually learn at school. It usually consists of more graph reading and general concepts. So if you know how to read a graph and you know what a hypothesis is, you might do okay on the ACT® science section.
6. “I’m going to take the ACT® because I hate the SAT®, and I don’t want to study a test I don’t like.”
This actually might be a good point–as long as you’re putting in a lot of study time for the test that you do like. However, if you decide to take one test over the other just because of a personal bias and you’re not putting in prep time to study, then this is a moot point. You should take the test that you will score better on, not the one that you like more (unless you are putting in significant time prepping for that test).
7. “I’m going to take the ACT® because it’s shorter and I have a short attention span.”
It’s true that the ACT® is shorter, but the SAT® has shorter individual sections, and more breaks between sections–so you might actually do better on the SAT® if you have a short attention span.
8. “I’m going to take the ACT® because it means I don’t have to take the SAT® Subject Tests –“
This is not necessarily true. Most schools, especially top tier schools, prefer that you take at least 2 SAT® Subject Tests.
9. I’m going to take the ACT® because I heard it’s easier than the SAT®.
The ACT® might feel easier, but you’re graded on a curve. Your scores will be compared to those of everyone else who is taking the test, so it actually doesn’t matter if one feels easier over the other. What matters is finding the test you’re personally better at.
Want to learn more about the differences between SAT® and ACT®? Check out these related posts!