How do I choose between the SAT and the ACT?
While the SAT and ACT are largely similar, here are some important differences that may affect which test you choose:
- The ACT includes a science section. If science and quantitative analysis (think: reading and analyzing graphs) are difficult for you, the SAT may be a better choice.
- Although both tests require you to adhere to a tight timeline, the ACT is definitely the tougher test if you work more slowly.
- The ACT allows calculators for the entire math section, while the SAT has both a ‘calculator-allowed’ and a ‘no calculator’ section. So if mental math is not your strong suit, the ACT might be more to your liking.
- Some colleges accept your ACT score in lieu of SAT subject tests, so if you take the ACT, you may get out of taking some extra tests.
- The ACT hasn’t changed for over 40 years while the SAT has changed several times, with a brand new redesign issued as recently as 2016. For this reason, many prefer the ACT. It is a tried and true test with a plethora of practice materials available. As the current SAT is brand new, the College Board is still figuring it out and the test fluctuates slightly every time it is administered.
How do I start?
With a diagnostic test. At IVY, each student starts by taking a 3.5 hour combined SAT vs ACT Diagnostic Exam at our testing facility in Midtown Manhattan. This gives students a basis to compare how well they do in the two tests and establishes a baseline from which we can work towards a scoring goal in whichever test you choose. Many students are surprised that they feel naturally better at one test over another. That feeling of confidence is really important and we want you to take the test that makes the most sense to you. That’s something you don’t know until you try each one.
Mock testing is vital to success!
Surprise: the testing doesn’t stop with a diagnostic! Both the SAT and the ACT are long tests, clocking in at 3 hours, even without the optional essay. Because it is extremely important that students practice in the most efficient way, we strongly recommend that each student take 3-5 mock tests at our testing facility. We believe so strongly in the importance of mock testing that unlimited mock tests are included in the Test Prep Program fee.
Chris Jacques focuses on SAT and ACT, successfully tutoring many of our students through the intricacies of both tests. In fact, he wrote our new SAT manual and coaches our Ivy tutors in test prep. Chris has been a full time tutor for over 6 years. Fearlessly, he took the new SAT in May 2016, so he can share the ins and outs of the testing process, including which testing centers are best.
“I thought I’d share the good news that my son was accepted by Harvard E/A last month. While his acceptance was most likely based on multiple factors, I am sure his strong test scores (i.e. SAT, SAT IIs, and APs) played a major part in their decision. We are extremely grateful to Chris for helping my son increase those scores dramatically.”
-Parent of 12th grader