Should I Take The Sat Or Act Test? Read This Before You Decide!

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If you are a high school student who plans to go to college, you will need to take either the SAT or ACT test. Since most high school students usually take these tests sometime during the second semester of their junior year, you will need to decide which test you should take.

At this point you probably don't have a firm list of colleges in mind and every school has specific test requirements. You should consider a test prep course for the SAT and ACT, as these tests are important at many schools for both college admission and scholarships. Attending a test prep course should familiarize you with each test's particular characteristics, and can help determine which test is more suited to your abilities.


The SAT has always been considered a test of reasoning and verbal skills. The ACT tests more what students have learned in their high school curriculum. In many respects, the content of both tests is really quite similar. It is the format that is different.


While both tests are lengthy, the SAT is actually 3 hours and 45 minutes. The ACT is 3 hours and 25 minutes and this includes the optional essay. Some students prefer the SAT because it consists of 10 or 11 sections, with no section longer than 25 minutes. The ACT consists of 4 sections with the longest section, math, taking 1 hour.


The SAT covers 3 areas: English, math, and critical reading. The ACT covers 4 areas: English, math, reading, and science reasoning. If you are good in math, the ACT may be your best option. The ACT contains four questions on trigonometry, and includes more intermediate algebra problems as well.

If you feel that your English vocabulary is not as strong as you might like, you might prefer the ACT. Unlike the SAT, the ACT doesn't directly test your word knowledge. Instead, the English section emphasizes sentence structure and grammar.

The ACT also has a section on science reasoning. So if you don't do well when examining graphs and other data to formulate scientific conclusions, you might be better off with the SAT than the ACT.


There is no penalty for guessing on the ACT. This makes some students feel more comfortable with the test. There is a small penalty for guessing on the SAT, but students should always guess on a question if they can eliminate at least one answer. So when taking the ACT, keep that in mind and as much as possible, don't leave any questions unanswered.


There is a required essay on the SAT test. Students are given 25 minutes to brainstorm and answer a prompt and told to use examples from history, literature, or their own experiences. The ACT essay is more straight forward and students are given 30 minutes to answer the question. The essay on the ACT test is optional, but required by some colleges.

Still not sure whether to take the ACT or SAT? Some students will do better on one test than the other. Since it is difficult to know which test will work best for a particular student, it is usually suggested that students take both tests the spring of their junior year and then decide if one is more suited to their learning style. Take the test that you are most comfortable with and the one you feel you can get the highest score.

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