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ACT vs SAT: Should you take both?

February 08, 2011 By: Julie Manhan Category: College entrance exams, Get into College

Though people to continue to debate the value of standardized testing in making college admissions decisions, it is still an important part of the college admissions process.  Faced with the need to submit scores from these tests, students must tackle the quandary of  ACT vs SAT.  Here is some information that may help you decide what  your personal test taking strategy should be. Before you begin your ACT vs SAT debate, there are a few basic things you should know about the tests.

  1. The ACT is accepted by all colleges and universities in the U.S.  The SAT is accepted by all, but a very few.
  2. The SAT measures your ability to think and to solve problems.  The ACT measures what you’ve learned in school.
  3. The SAT deducts about 1/4 of a point for wrong answers. The ACT does not penalize you for guessing.
  4. The writing section on the ACT is optional.

Those the main differences between the tests, but the format of the tests and content are also somewhat different.  That is why, if you have the resources to do so, I recommend you take both tests once.  (If you do not have the resources, there are a number of places online where you can take practice tests for free.)

One of the most important things you can do before you take each test, is to make sure you are familiar with the types of questions you will find on both tests.  That way your score will give you a truer picture of which test will best showcase your abilities rather than which test you were better prepared for.  Both the ACT and SAT offer daily questions online that will help you get used to the types of questions you will find on the tests.  You can also pick up a free SAT or ACT test booklet in your high school counseling office. These booklets contain full practice tests that you can take at you own pace.

While some students may see little difference between their scores on the ACT vs SAT, for others the difference can be significant. By taking each test once, you can determine if one test is better suited to your abilities and testing style than the other. Even if your ACT vs SAT scores are similar, you will know which format felt more comfortable to you.  With this information you can decide which one test to focus on and prepare to retake, instead of spending extra time and money on both.  By focusing your concerted effort on one test, you increase your chances of improving both your scores and getting into one of your top college choices.

For those of you who struggle with standardized tests of any kind, there may be another answer.  I encourage you to check out  Here you will find a list of schools that have decided to make standardized tests optional and this list keeps growing every year. Good luck!