ACT vs. SAT: Should your child take both?

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It's a question that weighs heavily on the minds of many high school students and parents: What's the truth when it comes to taking college admissions tests? Who should you believe? 

I can tell you the confusion is warranted, since there isn't a cut-and-dry answer here. It's true that each college's requirements are a bit different. Community college vs. public state university vs. private institution...each will be evaluating your child's application using different criteria. Even admissions staff won't give you a straight answer on which tests to take. 

Add in the fact that the ACT and SAT are structured and scored differently, and offered on staggered dates throughout the year, and the complexity only grows.

What’s the difference between the ACT and SAT?

For parents who haven’t taken standardized tests in many years, the difference between the two tests isn’t clear. It’s tough to keep up because things change every few years. As of 2019, here are the basic differences between the ACT and SAT:

I'm sure you've heard that students should take one or the other based on their strengths. Or that they should take both until they achieve a particular score on one. So, which is the right way? 

Here are some general conclusions I’ve gathered from my experience with hundreds of test prep students.

The SAT is best suited for those who are in a math class above Algebra II, prefer "wordy" tests (word problems in math and longer questions in reading), don't have trouble finding evidence in a reading passage, and may have some anxiety about finishing in the time allotted.

The ACT is best for anyone who has had at least one semester of Algebra II, moves quickly or doesn't get too stressed about time, and has a knack for or interest in data interpretation and more logic-based questions.

This doesn't feel like a straightforward decision because it isn't.

The truth is somewhere in between and completely personal. As much as I hate giving vague answers like that, it's just the way it is with admissions tests. 

The good news is that I can expand upon this and help you individualize the decision for your high schooler. I'm here to help you save time and money (since you’re paying for each attempt!) and avoid the stress of this decision. If you have a sophomore or junior who’s getting ready to start their test prep journey, it’s the perfect time to enlist my support.

Click below to chat with me about the ACT and SAT for free!

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