This is a question I’ve been getting a lot lately: “should I take the new SAT or ACT?”
For all students graduating in 2017 and beyond, you’re going to be subjected to an experiment by the College Board. They have created a brand new test which has new emphases and new styles of questions. A lot of people in the test prep community have responded to this change by saying, “everybody should just prep for the ACT, forget about the SAT.”
While that might be okay advice for some students, it’s not the right answer for 100% of people. There are some situations in which it might be better for you to take the ACT instead of the SAT, as well as some situations in which it might be better for you to take the SAT instead of the ACT.
Why You Should Take the ACT
1. If you’re going to be an insane prepper. If you plan on doing any of the following: spending an inordinate amount of time prepping for the test, taking every example test humanly possible, looking at as many prep books as you can, or wanting to learn all the secrets of the test. There are tons of old ACT tests available for download on the internet; you’re going to have more materials to work with than if you were prepping for the SAT.
2. If you’re going to take a prep class from a place like the Princeton Review, Kaplan, or even a smaller tutoring company within your town. From personal experience, I generally recommend smaller tutoring companies over big ones; sometimes those teachers have a lot more experience tutoring the ACT, so they might be better at tutoring the ACT than tutoring the SAT.
3. If your weak spot is writing or reading comprehension. If those are the two areas that you struggle with most, generally the ACT version of those two sections can be easier to conquer than the SAT.
Why You Should Take the SAT
1. Compared to the ACT, there’s less material for the SAT, but Khan Academy offers free, high quality prep material online. If your parents don’t have the extra money for a class or a private tutor, and you work well with online learning interfaces, you might consider taking the SAT over the ACT.
2. If you struggled with the science section on the ACT. The SAT does not have a science section.
3. If you’re really bad with time. You have to finish the ACT in a certain amount of time, and if you don’t finish, you won’t be able to get all of those unanswered questions right by hurrying through them in the last minute. For some people, the SAT is easier in regards to time management.
4. If you’re interested in becoming a national merit scholar: someone who scores in the top half percentile to the top one percentile in the country on the PSAT. If you’re a top performer on these tests and you want to prep extensively for the PSAT, it would make more sense to take the SAT, rather than the ACT, because the PSAT and SAT are similar.
Why You Could Take Either Test
1. If you’re going to just walk in cold or you’re not going to do any prep whatsoever, you can pick either. Even if you’re not interested in doing any prep, it’s very beneficial to spend the time taking two practice tests (for free download online) because that won’t cost you a bunch of money that the tests will cost you.
2. If your scores are about equal and you’re only going to do modest self prep. There are four free exams available online for the new SAT, and if you’re not going to do more than four practice exams, you have the perfect amount of material to prep for it.
3. If you have a very highly skilled professional tutor or a private tutor that’s working with you. They’re going to be able to read the four tests that have been released and be able to coach you in a way that’s going to be valuable and help you up your score.
In order to figure out the answer to this question, you should sit down and take a full length ACT exam. Then you should sit down and take a full length SAT exam. That will help you to find out which one you do better on, which will give you a clearer idea of where to go. There’s a concordance table available that shows what percentiles are equal to what percentiles on the ACT vs SAT, so if you take both, you can see which one you did better on by comparing your scores. That should be a good starting place for you to help make this decision.