Which test to take, ACT or SAT?

We are asked many times, what test should I (or my student) take, the ACT or the SAT?

The simple answer is that students should take both the ACT and the SAT. They should at least take a practice test for each one (timed and proctored if available).  We then ask students which test they “liked” the best, which one makes them feel more comfortable and therefore gives them the greatest edge. Once they settle on one test, they should devote their prep time to that one test.

Beyond feelings, there are many factors in picking a test:

  1. The SAT is all new – we just don’t really know what it is going to look like and how it will be scored. With that said, these first two tests in March and May are about as fair as it is ever going to be for students. Test prep experts like 3RPrep are in the dark and cannot give great test prep, so there is less of an edge to those who prepare with the materials provided by College Board.
  2. The ACT is a known test.  We really know the ACT, besides a slight change to their optional essay, the core ACT has not changed for many years. And according to the ACT, the core will remain the same for at least a half dozen more years.
    1. Why this matters?
      1. David and I have been able to research more than 25 REAL ACT tests that were given to actual students. Using regression analysis, we are able to tell our students when a question will appear and at what frequency. It is a geeky analysis, but it really works.
  3. Here’s a breakdown of sections:
    1. Math – we feel that the new SAT math section is slightly harder. Though it has fewer questions asked over a longer time. The ACT math is very consistent and though it is more of a speed test, there are many questions that a student can do in a matter of seconds. The new SAT has added a non-calculator math section with lots of fractions. I don’t like that. Advantage: ACT.
    2. English grammar (Writing) – the SAT took this page straight from the ACT and weirdly added charts and graphs in the grammar section. Advantage: ACT.
    3. Reading – the SAT unapologetically has come out with a harder reading section. And has added weird data questions that are a straight copy of the ACT Science section. The ACT’s is once again more of a speed test. But the skill of finding the correct answer choice can be mastered. Advantage: ACT.
    4. Science – only the ACT has a dedicated Science section, but we like to call it “technical reading” which is why the SAT felt fine throwing their Science-look-alike questions in with reading. Advantage: ACT.

So it looks like 3RPrep favors the ACT over the new SAT. We highly recommend that are students follow our prep techniques to master the ACT. But if a student takes the SAT and likes it better – go for it!

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