ACT vs. SAT: Which Test Should You Take?

Brooke Papini, Junior Staff Writer

Decisions students  make in high school can impact their future and determine what college they attend. High school is the time to work hard and maintain good grades, so when the time comes, there are plenty of college options. In addition to looking at GPA, colleges also review ACT and SAT scores to determine acceptance. Now, the main question is, which test will benefit you the most.

It is important to know that colleges do not require both ACT and SAT scores, so both tests do not have to be taken for a student to be accepted. In order to choose what test to take, one needs to know what areas each test covers. The ACT includes four sections: Math, Reading, English, and Science, with an optional writing test. The SAT contains four sections as well: Reading, English, Math with a calculator, Math without a calculator and an optional essay. 

The Princeton Review, a popular test site, lists the following as the major differences between the two tests: 

There are disadvantages and advantages to each test.  Amber Davis, a junior at Hubbard High School says, “I think that when deciding on which test you should take, you need to consider what pace you like to work at. If you like to work at a fast pace then consider the SAT but if you like a slightly slower pace then choose the ACT.”  

According to, there are five main differences between the tests.  The source explains that the SAT favors more of a critical thinking process; for instance: “ While the ACT will ask you more straightforward questions that will test your knowledge, the SAT will ask more creative questions that will test your critical-thinking skills. On the Math section, for example, this difference might manifest itself in equations versus word problems: the ACT will have more questions that appear as numbers or graphs, whereas the SAT will use more words and scenarios. On the English section, the ACT might ask more questions about grammar, while the SAT might focus a bit more on writing style and expression of ideas.”  However, this source does state that the SAT incorporates a “vicious” vocabulary section.

 Now it is perfectly fine to take both tests because there are many advantages that can result. Choosing to take both tests can give more information to the admissions committee compared to single results. In addition, if a student takes both tests, he or she has more opportunities to improve a score and do well. These tests are similar in what they are asking, so taking one test can help a student prepare for the other. Another advantage of taking both tests is the availability to take the test. If a student chooses to take both the SAT and ACT, there are more test dates to choose from, so there are more options for students with a tight schedule. “I think that taking both the ACT and SAT wouldn’t hurt. Taking both tests would help you prepare for the future, give more information to the colleges you are applying to, and you have more chances to take the test so why not take them,” says Joella Coxson, a Junior at Hubbard High School. 

Overall, either test will help a student determine his or her future. Today colleges accept both SAT and ACT scores, so there is no right or wrong choice. How a student paces him/herself yourself and one’s strengths and weaknesses will determine which tests to take. The main point is to start testing asap; the longer one waits, the less opportunity there is for improvement, or choices.