Choosing between the SAT and ACT

What works best for students

By Eileen Chih

Students contemplate what tests to take in the countdown to college admissions.

As college admissions draw closer, students must decide what kind of standardized test they want to take. Students have the option of taking the SAT or the ACT depending on what they prefer. The main difference between SAT and ACT is that ACT has a science section and has more questions with almost the same amount of testing time.

College and Career Center Advisor Mary Lund explained that with the two tests have become more similar with implementation of the new SAT.

“It used to be a wider gap between the different kinds of tests. [The] SAT became a lot more like the ACT after they made the changes in 2016, so it’s not as big of a difference anymore,” Lund said.

Lund said that compared with the SAT, the ACT is more straightforward.

“The ACT has always been very straightforward in testing on what you learned,” Lund said. “The ACT has a lot of questions on it, so you don’t necessarily have the time to answer all the questions on the ACT, but you can still do really well even without answering all the questions.”

For both SAT and ACT, it is recommended that students should take the first test during junior year because students have the knowledge base at that point to take the test successfully. However, many students opt to take the tests earlier.

“Junior year classes used to match up to the test more so, but now kids are taking those math classes earlier,” Lund said.

Lund also pointed out test taking is only one part of the college application process.

“It’s just one part of your application that we stress, so it’s not something you need to spend hours and hours on,” Lund said. “Some colleges are test-optional, and some also require SAT subject tests, so you should also look online to see what tests you need to take.”

More information about testing for college admissions is available on the HHS website in the College Admissions Testing page.