SAT or ACT: Which Test Should You Take?

When deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT test, keep this in mind: the ACT AND SAT require different kinds of skills.

Some teens can significantly increase their scores just by picking the right standardized test to take.  Here are reasons why the ACT or SAT might be better than the other:

Teens who do well on the ACT tend to share these characteristics:

  • Fast reader.
  • Process information quickly.
  • Possesses strong memory.

The ACT is a more straightforward test, but it requires students to speed through the test. The ACT gives the teenagers significantly less time to answer questions than the SAT. Here’s an example:

Reading Portion of the ACT

  • Number of questions: 40
  • Time allowed: 35 minutes

Reading Portion of SAT

  • Number of questions: 54
  • Time allowed: 70 minutes

The ACT reading section isn’t tricky and contains simple vocabulary, but the challenge is speeding through it. The ACT also tests a student’s short-term memory abilities because, unlike the SAT, it doesn’t give students the specific lines on a passage where the answer can be found.

Midnight oil burner: If a child must spend a great deal of time on homework and assignments to earn good grades, the SAT will probably be the better test.

Teens who do well on the SAT tend to share these characteristics:

  • Possesses strong vocabulary.
  • Avid reader.
  • Like test-taking strategies.
  • Enjoys puzzles.

Unlike the ACT, the SAT requires a strong vocabulary because it inserts words like ephemeral, churlish and phlegmatic into the sentence completion part of the test and in reading passages.

Unlike the ACT, which has simpler reading passages, the SAT reading sections are trickier, but students have a longer time to process.

Because the SAT contains lots of  smoke screens, student who enjoy puzzles can do better. Students who aren’t as strong in grammar can also fare better on the SAT because the grammar rules that the SAT tests are easier to learn ahead of time. The ACT grammar is more difficult.

Bottom Line: If you are struggling with the the SAT vs ACT question, take a free sample test offered through the test makers to see which is the superior test for you.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also write a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.

Further Reading:

The Great ACT and SAT Test Debate

Which Test Scores to Send: SAT or ACT

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  1. Well pick the test that your school requires first of all, I took both exams and did extremely well on both i got 186o on sat
    and ACT i got 31 but i studied way hard so i mean do both if you can. but i have heard that some ppl view ACT as harder than sat

    1. The good news is that every four-year college and university in the country takes either the SAT or the ACT so that’s not going to be a consideration when deciding which standardized test to take.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy