Should I take the ACT and the SAT?

Posted by on Sep 15, 2012 in SAT & ACT

Should I take the ACT and the SAT?

Every year I get the question of whether a student should take the ACT or the SAT, or both. It can be very hard to determine the best test for a student without having the student take a practice exam. Students DO NOT need to take both exams to be eligible for college admission and all colleges and universities accept either the SAT or ACT. If you are just starting to think about standardized testing, please send me an email if you would like to receive practice materials.

Recently, I attended a seminar presented by Lisa Zimmer-Hatch regarding the ACT. Below are some of the things I found the most interesting.

The ACT has the following sections:

English Section 75 questions 45 minutes
Math Section 60 questions 60 minutes
Reading Section 40 questions 35 minutes
Science Section 40 questions 35 minutes
Writing Section 1 Essay 30 minutes


The ACT is VERY predictable. Every test has the sections mentioned above and the test is in the same order every time. In the English section there will always be 4 passages (prose fiction, social studies, humanities and natural sciences) in the same order. Students who paid attention in English class, but are not avid readers, tend to do well on the ACT. If a student has the ability to focus for longer period of time, they may also do well on the ACT. Students who have a harder time focusing may do better on the SAT because the sections are shorter. The big caveat to this is students who are granted extra time. Students who have extra time on both tests, tend to do better on the ACT.

Although both the ACT and SAT test similar skills, here is breakdown of some of the differences.

Content based Critical thinking and problem-solving based
Fewer, but longer sections More sections, but each section is shorter
No penalty for guessing A fraction of a point is deducted for wrong answers
A science section No official science section (some science questions)
No vocabulary questions (all in context of reading) Vocabulary questions
Trigonometry questions on the test No trigonometry questions on the test


Some schools DO super-score the ACT, meaning they take your highest score in each section, regardless of the test date. Todd at College Admissions Partners has a list of schools that super-score the ACT. So access it simply click here.

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