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SAT or ACT: Deciding Which One to Take

Most college-bound students know they will have to take either the SAT or ACT at some point, but deciding which to take can be confusing. To help you decide, I have compiled a list of some of the key differences between each test. Ask yourself:

  1.    Am I great with words or am I great with math?

The critical reading section of the SAT is very vocab-heavy. In other words, your performance on this test is based, in part, on how many big words you know. The ACT reading section, on the other hand, contains more questions relating to grammar and syntax. So if your vocabulary isn’t ginormous but you have a good feel of what correct English should sound like, take the ACT.

Both tests contain a math section, but the ACT contains higher-level math that the SAT does not, such as trigonometry. I should also note that while the SAT provides you with formulas, the ACT does not. So if math is not your strong point, take the SAT.

  1.    How do I prefer to do my work? All at once, or bit by bit?

With the ACT, you do all your English questions at once, all your math questions at once, all your reading questions at once, and all your science questions at once. So if you’re the kind of student that likes to knock something out in one fell swoop, then go with the ACT.

But if you’re like me and think taking 60 math questions at once is a little overwhelming, go for the SAT. On the SAT, your sections are broken up into smaller portions so that – in the words of  the Princeton Review – “you do a little math, a little writing, a little critical reading, a little more math, etc.” until you have finished all the questions.

  1.    Am I comfortable with science?

The ACT contains a science section, whereas the SAT does not. The ACT tests your aptitude for scientific reasoning – not your knowledge of specific scientific concepts. Still, if you tend to have trouble following passages about the makeup of the planets or deciphering paper chromatography charts, I suggest you take the SAT. If scientific passages like this don’t phase you, take the ACT.

Finally, I should note that most students find the ACT to be more straightforward in terms of how the questions are presented. This does not mean the ACT is easier – it simply means there is less decoding involved. And while this post is designed to give you a good idea of which test is right for you, the best indicator is an actual practice test. I urge you to take one ASAP if you haven’t already.

To take a practice SAT, go here:

To take a practice ACT, go here:

Once you have decided which test to take, we invite you to prepare with Elite Private Tutors:

For details on our SAT prep package, go here:

For details on our our ACT prep package, go here: