Should I take the ACT or the SAT?
It’s a question I am asked more and more frequently since almost every university and college now accepts either test for their admissions process. There is no easy way to answer this with out knowing many different things. In an effort to find the best answer, I respond with the following questions:
Have you taken the PLAN and the PSAT?
If not, have you taken both a real (not third party) SAT and ACT and scored them?
If so, have you compared the two test scores by percentile?
An apples to apples comparison is hard enough since the scores are scaled differently and made even more difficult because the sections of the two tests only roughly correspond. Here is a useful link to compare SAT and ACT scores
The SAT subject tests also deserve serious consideration.
Make a list of ten to twelve schools that you want to apply to. It should include, reach schools, 50/50 schools, and safety schools. Find out what all of their unique admissions requirements are. Do all or some of the schools you are applying to require SAT subject tests?
Most schools accept the ACT in lieu of SAT subjects tests. It may seem like far less work to take the ACT instead of the SAT and two or three one hour SAT subject tests but this may not be the wisest choice. The College Board offers eighteen different Subject Tests, many of which are foreign language tests. If you are multi-lingual this is a great place to shine.
Choosing the subjects in which you are tested presents a rare chance to show off your knowledge and put up some flashy standardized test scores. If you are going to be taking an AP exam in a given subject it would be smart to take the corresponding SAT subject test. I recommend taking SAT subject tests both Sophomore and Junior year on the date offered closest to final exams. This way your studying is synergistic. Why not kill two birds with one stone?
While it is en vogue to take the ACT, there is no advantage in doing so unless your PLAN scores are significantly higher than your PSAT scores. This is because the SAT requires far less knowledge and more test strategy than the ACT. This means that knowing how the SAT is graded and knowing whether to guess or skip can drastically change your score. It is something that anyone can learn. In contrast, knowing Trigonometry and the rules of logarithms will raise ACT scores, but will take far longer to master.
In addition, the SAT is the most studied test in the world, as such, it is more predictable than the ACT. This means that tutoring in and studying for the SAT usually leads to greater score improvements in every section of the test. ACT scores also improve with tutelage and study, but not as dramatically.
Which is right for you? Take a test in each and compare your results. Only if you score significantly higher by percentage in the ACT do I recommend taking it over the SAT. If you are favored by the ACT and decide to take it, you should still seriously consider taking two to three SAT subject tests in your very best subjects. Let your light shine!
Whatever you decide, decide on one test and prepare for it. Many parents register their students to take multiple ACTs and SATs. This is overwhelming for any Junior and generally a losing strategy. It is best to pick one and focus. I hope you find this perspective helpful. Contact us if you have any further questions and good luck.