The SAT vs ACT: which test should I take?

Junior year of high school is a stressful time filled with college applications, AP classes, and various tests and exams. The SAT and ACT are among some of the most important tests to prepare for because the scores received on these exams are one of the most important factors in getting into the university of your choice. Choosing which exam to take and which scores to send to these schools is a difficult and grueling task. Students may take whichever test they prefer, so it’s important to figure out which test caters to your strengths more.

Here at Modern Muse Education, we provide many services that aid in your decision making process including practice exams, tutoring and consultations to help determine which best fits your learning style. Below, we have outlined some of the differences between the SAT and the ACT so you can begin to decide which test you prefer.

While the above differences can be helpful in making your decision, choosing the best test for you involves evaluating other factors on a deeper level. Here are three that our students have mentioned have been the most helpful:

How broad is my math knowledge?

While both the SAT and ACT test many algebraic math concepts, the ACT tends to have a broader range of mathematical skills such as logarithms, graphs of trigonometric functions, and matrices. If math is one subject of concern, you can take practice math sections of each test, or practice ACT and SAT math questions online.

In addition to testing a bigger range of topics, the ACT also does not provide you with formulas at the beginning of the test so you will need to have them all memorized.

The bottom line is that if algebra comes easier to you than trigonometry and geometry, the SAT math will likely be easier for you.

Are you comfortable with science terminology?

The ACT contains a science section that the SAT does not include. An important thing to remember about the science section is that it doesn’t test your scientific knowledge: it is testing your ability to read graphs, and gather information from the given experiments.

You can complete this section with little scientific knowledge, however, if you are familiar with more scientific terminology, you will be able to complete this section quicker, and with more confidence.

Are you able to avoid getting stuck on challenging questions?

When taking any sort of test, it is vital to not get stuck on any questions, and to instead make an educated guess and come back to it in the end if need be. This is so important in order to complete each question on the test.

The ACT gives significantly less time per question, so if this is something you struggle with the SAT will allow you more time per question.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Before making your decision, it is a good idea to take a full length practice test for both the SAT and ACT, to give you a feel for both exams. You can also simply take both tests and send in your best score, however this will cost you more, considering you must pay for each test everytime you take it.

Here is an SAT to ACT score converter in case you take both and want to see which score is higher and better to send to schools. This is based on the Collegeboard’s initial report from May 2016, and Collegeboard has announced a more current version of this concordance table by Summer of 2018:

Ways that Modern Muse Education can be your Partner in SAT/ACT Success:

Modern Muse Education offers one on one tutoring in order to improve your ACT and SAT scores. You may also enroll in one of their various SAT or ACT prep classes that prepare you for each section on the test and for what type of questions you will encounter. They also offer free official full length practice tests and consultations to discuss your score in depth.


© 2015-2019 by Modern Muse Education, LLC

SAT, Accuplacer and AP are registered trademarks of the College Board. ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc. IB is a registered trademark of the International Baccalaureate Organization.

Modern Muse Education, LLC is neither affiliated with nor endorsed by the College Board, ACT, Inc. or  International Baccalaureate Organization.