Best Suited for me- SAT or ACT??


When you think of undergraduate programs from USA or other top universities across the globe, 1st stepping stone is a standardized test & here lies major dilemma!! Which one to take SAT Or ACT? Let’s me try to clear few facts about each exam which will help in your decision making.

First myth to bust is one is better than other, there is no such thing as SAT over ACT or vice versa. With some people rooting for SAT & some for ACT and this creates plethora of question like

  • The most famous and popular one?
  • Does my college application weigh one test over other?
  • Best Suited as per my profile?
  • Easier to score?
  • Will my application get boost if I appear for both?

Let’s me help to clear these doubts…

The popular one?

Both tests are considered at par in USA for more than 30 years. Popular perception is SAT which was started in 1926 is more popular. But that’s not true as in year 2012 number ACT takers bypassed SAT taker & both are going neck to neck. SAT is not lagging behind in number it’s just that students appearing for these two tests have grown are pretty rapid rate.

Does college weighs one over other?

These are two siblings, each one getting same amount of attention & acceptance. Colleges are looking to evaluate students on basis of scores in standardized tests & both ‘ACT & SAT 'are accepted.

In some instances, admission committees had to go on record to state they are not biased for one over the other.

Very first step in application process is getting good scores in either of these exams based on which admissions team decide about promoting your application to next level or to be returned. To get colleges interested in your application you need to achieve minimum bar they have set for scores.

To make this point simpler let’s take 2 examples:

1. A Composite score of 36 in ACT is same as 1600 in SAT

2. A score of 33 in ACT is identical to a 1400 on SAT

Best one for my Profile?

Results/Scores of aptitude exams form one part of student’s profile & not a complete picture. It’s all about candidate as a complete package. Colleges don’t compartmentalize scores & other aspects; each & everything goes hand in hand. It includes your GPA, ECA (Extra Circular Activities), Essays, Recommendation Letters, Scores (ACT/SAT) etc.

Easier to score?

There are slight deviations in pattern between both the tests. Both have Maths, Grammar & Reading sections with an optional Essay. Difficulty level is almost at par with a small number of exceptions -

1. SAT may focus more on learning of vocabulary (though in revised SAT level of challenging words has come down), so if vocabulary is not your forte then, ACT may be a better option for you.

2. In ACT questions are pretty straight forward but with slightly advanced concepts of maths. In SAT you encounter simpler math concepts via tricky questions.

3. Some students fret over ACT’s science section, but fact is THIS SECTION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SCIENCE. You don’t need to be science whiz to answer this section. It’s like graphs & charts in SAT.

Science based Charts/Graphs/Passages used in this section require common sense and sharp logical skills rather than thorough science knowledge.

Will my application get boost if I appear for both?

“Absolutely Not Required” as college will only consider your BEST score whether its SAT or ACT.

It’s smart to focus your efforts on one of these exams to make sure you score well, rather than trying to score well on both tests and not reaching anywhere. But, it’s useful to know how your score translates so you can better understand your performance as well as your chances of admission at various colleges.

Take a practice test for both the SAT and ACT, you will be able to find out which test you're naturally better at. If you scores vary dramatically then go for one in which your scored higher (say, the equivalent of 2 ACT points) .

However, in certain exceptional cases you should take both exams if result in the test taken is not up to the mark & your results of mock tests were better than test already given.

The bottom line is to “Play up to your strengths”. Maximizing your ACT or SAT score is the best advantage you can give yourself in college application.

Keep reading this space for more information about SAT or ACT