SAT vs ACT 2017-09-21T05:21:10+00:00

SAT versus ACT

Stuck between the SAT and ACT? Both admissions tests count for college, but each cater to different kinds of learners in different situations. Learn which test your child is likely to score higher on with this quiz.

What year will your child graduate high school?

Why does this matter?

The College Board redesigned the SAT in 2016, lowering the point scale from 2400 to 1600 and changing section content. Following these changes, admissions committees will take a couple of years to adjust to the new sections and scoring. In the short-term this makes setting goals for the SAT a little bit tricky. The ACT, on the other hand, is a known commodity. Since schools will accept either test, we have been counseling current seniors to lean toward years the ACT unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.

Is either the SAT or ACT required in your state?

Why does this matter?

Many states administer either the SAT or ACT to all public school Juniors. If your child has to take one of the two admissions tests, he or she should likely stick to it because students perform better when they focus all preparation on only one test.

States that require the ACT:

  • Alabama
  • Hawaii
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

States that require the SAT:

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Rhode Island

What's your child's most recent SAT score? (If you have one.)

Why does this matter?

One of the best ways to figure out which test to take is simply to take both and compare scores. The tests are scored on different scales, but you can make an apples to apples comparison by converting to a percentile basis.

What's your child's most recent PSAT score? (If you have one.)

Why does this matter?

The PSAT tests the same content as the SAT, excluding the most difficult questions. (That’s why the PSAT is scored out of 1520, not 1600.) So, why does PSAT score matter when choosing between the SAT and ACT? Similar to the reason we ask for SAT score: past performance is a pretty good predictor of future success.

What's your child's most recent ACT score? (If you have one.)

Why does this matter?

Compare your child’s ACT score to his or her SAT or PSAT score to determine the test he or she is likely to score higher on. Remember: since all four-year US colleges accept both tests, you have the luxury of choosing the test that your child prefers.

Approximately how many hours has your child prepped for the SAT?

Why does this matter?

Our data strongly suggests two things. First, taking the same test multiple times increases scores. Second, switching tests decreases scores. While the SAT and ACT are very similar, there are differences that can throw a wrench into performance if your child gets used to one test or another. For that reason, as your child spends more time preparing for any one test, he or she should be more inclined to stick with that test.

Approximately how many hours has your child prepped for the ACT?

Why does this matter?

Our data strongly suggests two things. First, taking the same test multiple times increases scores. Second, switching tests decreases scores. While the SAT and ACT are very similar, there are differences that can throw a wrench into performance if your child gets used to one test or another. For that reason, as your child spends more time preparing for any one test, he or she should be more inclined to stick with that test.

How does your child’s math ability compare to his or her verbal ability?

Why does this matter?

The one major structural content difference between the SAT and ACT is that the SAT weighs math more heavily than the ACT. (About twice as heavily.) So, math-dominant learners typically perform better on the SAT. However, your child shouldn’t take the SAT just because he or she is better at math. For this to matter, the skill disparity has to be pronounced.

How does your child’s math ability compare to his or her science ability?

Why does this matter?

The other structural content difference between the SAT and the ACT is the presence of a Science section on the ACT. This section is somewhat misleading, however. The Science section is really tests how well your child is able to read and interpret complicated charts and tables. So, another way to write this question might be to ask you to rank your child’s comparative ability between math and reading complicated charts.

Which test are your child’s friends mostly taking?

Why does this matter?

There is no denying that we are social creatures. For that reason, there is simply a cost to going against the grain. If one test is more common in your area there may be more ACT books in your library, better local tutors for that test, more testing sites, etc. Go with the path of least resistance.