ACT vs. SAT: the best test

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Taking a test is stressful enough on its own; adding college admissions into the mix does not make it any easier. With students across the nation tackling the SAT and ACT, standardized tests that are required by most U.S. colleges for admission, the pressure is mounting over deciding which test you should take.  

“These tests are definitely stressful because you can get the idea that if you bomb the test then your life is over and that makes you more stressed and causes a negative feedback loop, but if you approach it like a normal test and just do your best, you will be alright,” Chad Rojas, senior, said. 

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a nationwide exam administered by College Board that is used for college admissions. The test contains three sections: Reading (65 minutes for 52 questions), Writing and Language (35 minutes for 44 questions), and Math (80 minutes for 58 questions), with an optional writing section. The SAT places emphasis on math; therefore, it might be easier for if that subject comes naturally for you. 

“What I liked about the SAT is that you can pick your best score from each section to super score it into one score, and what I don’t like about it is how long it is and how much studying is required,” Bella Jurs, junior, said. 

The American College Testing (ACT) exam is a standardized test covering four academic areas: English (45 minutes for 75 questions), Mathematics (60 minutes for 60 questions), Reading (35 minutes for 40 questions), and Science (35 minutes for 40 questions), with an optional writing portion. Due to the times given for each section being significantly shorter than those of the SAT, you might be better suited to tackle the ACT if you are more time-efficient. The test also focuses more on verbal skills rather than mathematics.  

“The ACT Science and Reading sections are similar because they both have thinking sections and inferencing sections. For some, you must know the answer, and for others, you must read the passage and understand the answer,” Annie Arnold, senior, said. 

Deciding which test to take can be tricky. While most colleges do not have a preference for either, it is crucial to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses to determine your choice. The ACT math section, while shorter, includes more advanced math concepts, such as trigonometry and logarithms, than the SAT. Although, while the SAT is more math-heavy and incorporates a no-calculator section, the ACT focuses more on English and writing skills—which can be better for those who prefer that over STEM.  

“I was told that the SAT was required for dual enrollment (…) the SAT is better for someone who excels in literature. Sadly, it is not my strongest topic. I would recommend it to someone who enjoys literature though. If you enjoy science, I recommend the ACT,” Gavin Martin, junior, said. 

While these tests are important, your score is not a reflection of your intelligence; there are many other factors that influence a college’s decision to accept you. Learn about registering for the ACT and SAT here.