SAT or ACT? That Is the Question

Academic Guidance

SAT or ACT? That Is the Question

The most important factors to consider when deciding whether to prepare for the SAT or the ACT are whether you've taken Algebra 2 or Pre-calculus and how expansive your vocabulary is. The SAT tests vocabulary fairly extensively, the ACT does not. If you 've taken Pre-calculus, the ACT might be for you. Otherwise, I recommend sticking with the SAT as the Math sections only test concepts learned through Algebra 2. The content tested on the ACT Math section is more advanced than content on the SAT because it includes Trigonometry and Pre-calculus concepts. Furthermore, the SAT gives you all the geometric formulas you might need, but you need to have them memorized for the ACT. Students generally prefer the ACT over the SAT because it's more straightforward (the SAT is pretty tricky), although the ACT is more of a speed test.


The ACT Reading section contains easier questions and answers than the SAT Critical Reading section because the correct answer more exactly matches the wording of the text in the passage. The correct SAT Critical Reading answer choice may at most paraphrase the passage. While the ACT questions are generally easier than SAT questions, the order of the questions is more scrambled. On the SAT, the specific questions (ie those that refer to a specific word, line number, or paragraph) generally correlate to the passage in a linear fashion.


The ACT Science section is basically a glorified Reading section-doing well comes down to locating the correct columns and rows. You hardly have to bring any crystallized knowledge to the ACT Science section-it's mostly testing your fluid intelligence (ie your ability to analyze and interpret novel scientific information in the form of studies, charts, figures, and graphs).


The real downside to the ACT is that you can't take your Superscore like you can on the SAT. Superscoring is just taking your best performance on each individual section, regardless of the date on which you achieved that score. Although, apparently some colleges and universities have begun Superscoring the ACT as well.