ACT or SAT: Take the Quiz to Help You Decide

ACT or SAT: Take the Quiz to Help You Decide

One step that occurs early in the daunting college admissions process is deciding whether a student should take the SAT, ACT, or both. Colleges don’t prefer one over the other. In our experience, most students are better off picking one test and then taking it up to three times. With super scoring, a student’s highest section score among all tries is used, which encourages students to take these tests more than once. With the launch of the new SAT this past spring, the differences between the two tests are more subtle. But they still exist. How to decide? The following quiz for students may help. Ask  your child to answer either Yes or No to these questions:

  1. If you took both the PSAT and the PLAN or Pre-ACT, did you feel more confident after the PSAT? 

  2. Have you been taking Common Core math?

  3. Do you dislike science and/or feel lost reading about experiments and looking at graphic representations of data?

  4. Would you find it stressful to do reading passages out of order, keep a very close eye on the clock, and possibly have to guess on a few questions?

  5. Do you have the stamina/attention span for a solid hour of critical reading?

  6. Are you OK with doing some grid-in (i.e., non-multiple choice) math questions as well as 20 math problems without a calculator? An example of a no-calculator question: If (x-1)/3 = k and k=3, what is the value of x?

  7. Do you have a fear of/underperform in higher-order math such as geometry and trigonometry?

  8. If you plan to take the essay part of the exam--which is optional on both the ACT/SAT-- would you feel confident reading a text and writing a critical analysis of it using criteria such as how effectively the author uses stylistic or persuasive elements, evidence, and reasoning?

  9. When answering a critical reading question, would you find it easy to point out the evidence that supports your answer?


How to Score the Quiz

Add up your Yes answers. If you got 5 or more Yes answers, it’s likely that the SAT will be best for you. If you got 5 or more No answers, on the other hand, it’s likely that the ACT will be your best bet.  You should base your final decision, however, on how you do on ACT and SAT practice tests and/or the PSAT or Pre-ACT.