SAT or ACT, Arg!?! Hey, which one should I take?

September 2, 2009

Most colleges today accept both or either of the standardized tests; the SAT and ACT and state that they don't have a preference. It's not unusual for a student to score significantly higher on one test vs. the other. Many students are asking: "Well, which test should I take?"

First, check to see if the schools you are considering have a test preference or requirement. If not, consider your options. (*Note some more elite college require the SAT Subjects test in addition to the SAT or ACT. Check the college admission requirements.)

Keep in mind the differences in structure and content of the two exams. The tests have distinct qualities - the ACT is curriculum-based (English, math, reading, science and an optional writing section), while the SAT is more of an aptitude test focused on vocabulary, reading comprehension, general reasoning and problem-solving skills.

If you have a hard time staying focused for long periods, the ACT may be the test for you. It's shorter, generally more straightforward and there are more knowledge-based questions. English and math are a part of both tests, but the content and orientation is different.

The SAT focuses more on vocabulary and the ACT concentrates on grammar, punctuation and syntax. The ACT includes science and trigonometry, neither of which is found on the SAT.

Some counselors will tell you that intelligent underachievers will do better on the SAT and diligent overachievers will score better on the ACT. And others say that Athletes do better on the ACT verses the SAT. That may not be true information.

Many experts recommend that you take both tests, as well as both pre-tests (the PSAT and the PLAN) if they are offered in your area.

If you wish to make an educated choice, check out some of the free full-length practice tests for the ACT and SAT online (at The College Board, ACT,,, familiarize yourself with the format, content and structure and decide what's best for you.

Here are the official links to sample test:
Free SAT sample tests
Free ACT sample tests

If you don't have a clear preference, many students looking for any edge to improve their chances of admission, are taking both tests and submitting the higher score or both scores.

If you are a high school senior register for the test(s) now.
SAT test date October 10, 2009 registration deadline September 9
Register here for the SAT 
ACT test date October 24, 2009 registration deadline September 18
Register here for the ACT

If you are a high school junior take the test in the late spring
SAT test date March 13, 2010 registration deadline February 4, 2010
ACT test date April 10, 2010 registration deadline March 5, 2010

If you are a more hands on electronic techno-savvy kind of person, there are electronic handheld game type test prep devices. Pocket Prep Interactive Handheld Tutor for the SAT and ACT


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