ACT vs. the New SAT – Which Should You Take?
In March 2016, the College Bard will launch its revamped SAT in hopes of providing scores that better reflect what test-takers learn in high school. The ACT is changing too, but not nearly as drastically. In fact, many argue that the SAT is changing to become more like the ACT.
While that may be a good thing, it does create the question:
Which test should I take: ACT or SAT?
If you’re planning to take one of the tests but haven’t decided which one yet, here are some things to consider.
- Test preparation. Because the SAT is new, there’s not as much tried-and-true test prep material as there is for the ACT. The ACT has been around many years without much change, and there is a wealth of test prep materials. The new SAT requires, of course, new test prep materials and practice courses. It’s almost like buying the new model of a car. Sometimes it’s best to wait until some of the bugs get worked out. If you decide to take the SAT, it may be best to wait at least until the May test in order to get the test prep materials once they’re revised and updated to reflect the latest strategies based on the results of one or more actual tests given.
- Multiple choice. If math isn’t your strong suit, consider that the ACT’s answers are all multiple choice. On the new SAT, 13 of the problems require you to fill in the answer.
- Calculators. Feel free to break out your calculator for all the ACT math problems. The new SAT, however, prohibits calculators for part of the math section.
- Time restraints. If you don’t perform well under pressure, the new SAT may be a less intense test because you’re given more time per problem.
- Science section. The new SAT doesn’t have a science section while the ACT does (although it’s less about science and more about using graphs, tables and numbers set in a science backdrop). If you’re not good at these types of questions, then the SAT may be for you, but if you have a knack for them, consider the ACT.
- Essay prompts. Both tests have an optional essay (although some colleges do require it). The ACT essay prompt will have you support your own argument, while the new SAT essay prompt will have you evaluate someone else’s argument.
- Test results. This might be one of your biggest considerations. While the ACTs have about a three-week turnaround for scores, the first (March 2016) test-takers of the new SAT won’t get their scores until the May 2016 results are analyzed. The problem is, high school juniors who might want to take the new SAT twice won’t have feedback from their March test results to know if they should take it again in May.
Although you can take both tests, it’s probably best to just take one of them. Still not sure which test is right for you? Take practice exams for both then compare your scores to decide which “real” test to take.