One of the most general decisions you face as a high school sophomore, senior or junior is whether to take the ACT or SAT exam. Although the universities you are applying to may play a role in determining which exam to register for, you should also consider your strengths as a student and test-taker when deciding which standardized test to prepare for and take.
Because both the ACT and SAT have experienced revisions in past years, old analyses of “Should I take the ACT or SAT?” may not have much validity.
For example, the new SAT exam has added a “no calculator” part, returned to its original scoring scale of 1600 and eliminated the guessing penalty. Furthermore, the updated ACT test has made changes to its scoring – such as now giving a STEM score for the math and science sections and an English language score – as well as major changes to its writing portion.
Reconsider content-based decisions:
Recent ACT and SAT revisions have resulted in significant changes to the content that each exam assesses. As a result, consider re-evaluating any content-based decisions you may have made based on the examinations’ previous versions.
If you struggle with science, for example, you may have firstly chosen the SAT because it does not have a science portion. While the redesigned SAT exam still lacks a dedicated science section, the evidence-based writing and reading section now contains passages that examine scientific topics.
Similarly, if the arcane vocabulary that the SAT test previously used prompted you to favor the ACT, note that the College Board – the organization behind the SAT exam– has made vocabulary on the redesigned SAT test more modern and relevant to high school students. The examination also places a greater importance on deducing the meaning of a specific word from the surrounding context, rather than just memorizing its definition. This can ultimately assist you develop stronger comprehension skills and focus more on the complete and detailed picture, rather than just relying on rote memorization of particular details.
Evaluate question types:
Not only do the ACT and SAT test slightly different sets of knowledge, they also use subtly different kinds of questions. It is thus vital to recognize and assess your own weaknesses and strengths as a test-taker and then choose the test with questions that best play to your strengths.
The optional writing portion on both tests ACT and SAT is a great illustration of this principle. If you tend to do fine when asked to elaborate on a single topic or passage, the redesigned SAT test may be preferable to you. Its Fifty-minute essay section presents a passage and asks you to analyze how the author supports and builds a specific argument.
If, on the other hand, you do well when contrasting and comparing multiple viewpoints or passages, the ACT exam may be more in line with your skill set. Its Forty-minute section provides you with 3 different perspectives on single issue and asks you to evaluate those opinions with develop your own stance and clarify how it relates to the other viewpoints.
Weigh your prior preparation:
If you have been studying for the ACT or SAT exam for some time, then you have likely been preparing at least in part for the examination’s prior version.
While there are rare instances when you may have fine reason to switch from one exam to the other – for instance, you have focused mainly on one content area that is being determine and replaced that the other exams better suits your weaknesses and strengths – remaining with the test you have prepared for is typically the greatest option. The tests are changing, but they are not changing so much that preparation for one would now make more sense than for the other.
The recent revisions to the ACT and SAT exam may alter your original assessment of the examinations. When deciding which test to take and submit to universities, factor in the redesigned elements of both exams, in addition to your weaknesses and strengths, before you make your final decision.
Students who prepared for ACT or SAT tests’ previous versions may want to reassess their test-taking weaknesses and strengths.
Even with the ACT and SAT exams redesigns, it may be good for students to stick with the test they have been preparing for.