SAT vs ACT: Which Exam Should You Take?

College admissions exams are stressful enough without having to decide which one to take. Nowadays, some schools don’t even require applicants to take an admissions exam, but it’s always better to do so anyway – you’ll stand out amongst other applicants. In fact, more and more applicants are taking both the SAT and ACT exams. Which exam is right for you? That all depends on your strengths, weaknesses, and the colleges you’ll be applying to. In this post, we’ll examine some key factors you should consider when selecting your entrance exams.

What Do Your Top Schools Prefer?

No matter where you apply to school, no school will require both an SAT and ACT score to be submitted. However, some schools want you to report all of your scores, not just you best test results. Most of these schools are prestigious, like Duke and Yale. If you’re applying to one of those schools, choose your exam wisely.

Which exam scores your top schools prefer somewhat depends on where your school is located. Students in the Midwest are more likely to take the ACT, so colleges in that region expect to see a high number of ACT applicants. College admissions officers claim that there is no bias for the SAT over the ACT, but college admissions stats beg to differ.

If your top school requires a specific exam, that’s the exam you should take, without question.

What Are Your Strengths?

Do you do well under pressure? Do you like science? Are you comfortable with more advanced math subjects, like geometry and trigonometry? If so, the ACT is the best fit for you.

Can you decipher phrases that are worded to confuse you? Do you excel at doing basic calculations by hand? Can you use logic to explain your answers to test questions? If so, take the SAT.

Thankfully, practice exams are available to take, including the official PSAT to get you prepared for the real deal. Use these practice exams to see which exam you’re more likely to do well on.

What Are Your Weaknesses?

On the other hand, you might not want to take an exam with features that you struggle with.

If you’re not heavily into math or science, and you crack under time constraints, you might not want to take the ACT.  If you rely on straightforward questions to keep from getting confused, you’ll struggle with the SAT. The SAT is notorious for making their questions sound more complicated than they need to, so those who struggle with reading comprehension have a huge disadvantage on this exam.

Do You Even Need to Take One?

As mentioned earlier, some schools don’t even require an admissions exam. As standardized testing becomes more of a controversial topic, fewer schools are requiring their applicant to submit scores for the SAT or ACT. These schools aren’t illegitimate, either – they include top schools like George Washington University and Wesleyan University, along with over 180 others. If you suffer from anxiety during tests, you might want to consider applying to these schools.

It’s easy to say you should just take both the SAT and ACT, but high school juniors already have enough on their plates. Choosing one exam (or none) to take will reduce your workload, but taking both will help you to stand out amongst the crowd. If you need more help deciding on which test to take, talk to your guidance counselor – they’ll know more about regional preferences and your opportunities with each exam.

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