The ACT Vs. The SAT

Should I take the ACT or the SAT?

Colleges accept both tests on an equal basis. In fact, more students nationwide take the ACT than the SAT.

There is a lot of overlap between the ACT and SAT, but there are also some crucial differences. The most notable difference is the time pressure. The ACT is designed to be more of a high time pressure test. Most questions are easier than a similar SAT question, but because you have to rush to finish the section, you are more likely to make a careless error.

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We often say that SAT measures power, while ACT measures speed. If you’re good at working quickly, the ACT might be a better test for you. It’s harder to get extended time for the ACT, but if you can, it’s a huge advantage.

Most people consider ACT questions more straightforward and similar to basic exercises that you’ve completed in school. SAT questions get into deeper reasoning skills. For example, you may be asked to look at a complicated equation and determine the meaning of its different components.

Another big difference is that the only the ACT has a full science section. But the SAT does address a few science topics by mixing charts and tables into some of the reading and language passages.

A common myth is that if you take the ACT, you don’t need SAT subject tests. That’s true at Yale University, but it’s not true at Harvard. It’s true at Tufts University, but it’s not true at Williams College. In short, it’s all over the place. You should always check the requirements at the colleges you’re interested in.

When it comes to deciding which test to prepare for, we advocate basing the decision in large part on actual scores from official practice tests, which we can provide. In the end, many people decide to take both tests, which gives them the luxury of picking whichever one turned out better to send to schools.

Practice Diagnostic Tests

MJ Test Prep offers full-length diagnostic tests that you can take in either our Bryn Mawr office or our Chestnut Hill office. If you have already taken the PSAT at your school, you can bring your PSAT scores and take a full-length practice ACT at either location. We’ll compare the scores after you take the test, and you don’t have to take another full-length practice SAT, unless you want to. Tests are $20. Please call us to schedule.