The ACT vs. SAT: Which Exam Should You Take? By Kristina Carroll, CollegeWeekLive

Standardized testing is an important part of college admissions, and it is often dreaded by many high school students. From choosing which test to take, to trying to get to your target score, mastering the SAT and ACT exams is no easy task. Should you take the ACT, SAT, or both? Before answering that, it’s important to know the main differences between each exam.




The SAT and ACT are scored on completely different scales, so comparing scores across both exams is nearly impossible. An SAT score can range anywhere from 400 to 1600, while the highest score you can get on the ACT is a 36.


Both tests have similarities in terms of what they’re testing. For example, there are Reading, Math, and optional writing essays on both exams. One major difference between the two is that the ACT contains a science portion, while the SAT does not.

Testing Differences

There are some general differences between the exams that might help you decide right away which one is right for you. One big difference is that the SAT does not allow calculators on all math problems, while the ACT exam does. For those that need the comfort of having a calculator to help them focus and remain confident throughout the exam, the ACT might be a better option. However, another important difference to be aware of is that the ACT is much more fast paced, and time management is crucial. The SAT allows a little more time per section, so this might be a better option for those who tend to use all of the allotted time on standardized tests.

Which Test Should You Take?

Many students think the best way to figure out which exam they’ll do the best on is by taking each exam once, and then making their decision once they receive their scores. However, this is not the best option for several reasons. First, it takes up a lot of time that could be used to prepare for exams—given that there are a limited amount of testing dates each year. The second biggest issue concerning this theory is that the material covered is so different between both exams, that trying to learn everything will most likely confuse you and cause you to score lower on both tests. Many test experts recommend taking full-length practice tests at home in order to get a feel for the exams, without wasting the time of registering for a real exam, paying two exam fees, and then waiting for score reports to come out. By taking practice exams, you’ll be able to determine what parts of each exam you excelled in and what parts you struggled in instantly, and from there you can focus on maximizing your score on one exam.