One of the most common questions I am asked is whether a student should take the ACT or the SAT.  That is also one of the hardest questions to answer, because there are so many variables in play as to what test is better for the student.  The focus of this post is to inform you of the differences between the tests, how schools use them, and why it’s beneficial to take them more than once.


NEW YORK - JUNE 27:  SAT test preparation books sit on a shelf at a Barnes and Noble store June 27, 2002 in New York City. College Board trustees decided June 27 to add a written essay and other changes to the SAT in an overhaul of the college entrance exam. The first administration of the new SAT will occur in March of 2005. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)


What about the new SAT?

For most schools, not a lot will change.  We are already looking at the Math and Reading sections of the SAT.  Now, you are more than welcome to take that writing section, especially if you are considering a writing intensive major, but we do not require it.  Also, if you are considering being an education major, a 500 on each of the sections can waive your first PRAXIS requirement, so it may be a good idea to take the writing section.  College Board recently released a score conversion chart, take a look here if you are interested.



The Scholastic Aptitude Test (or SAT) is a college entrance exam created by the College Board.  The purpose of the exam was to create a common criteria that colleges could use to compare one student to another across the board.  The SAT is scored out of 1600 (800 for Math and 800 for Reading) making a perfect score a 1600.  A lot of institutions also use this as criteria for merit aid.



Much like the SAT, the American College Testing Program (or ACT) is a pen and paper exam that is used as admissions criteria for colleges and universities.  Unlike the SAT, the ACT is broken in to four sections, English, Math, Reading and Science, each section is out of 36 points with your composite score being an average of the sections, with a perfect score being a 36.  Most colleges will use your ACT scores as criteria for merit aid as well.


Which do I take?

Now this is where things get exciting!  The answer to this question is: either.  Most colleges (like Grove City) do not put an emphasis on one test over the other.  Therefore you can take either the SAT or the ACT and still be eligible for admission.  My advice to students when they ask me that question is to consider the composition of the test.  If you feel you are stronger in Math and Science, then you may be better off taking the ACT. If those are not your strengths then consider taking the SAT.  Generally it is not a bad idea to take both, see which one you perform better on and then take that test again. But, if you have to choose just one, go with the one that plays to your strengths.

Don’t forget that many schools are going to “super-score”, take the best scores from each section of each test and combine them for a new score, so taking it more than once is not a bad thing.  Whatever you do, make sure you spend some time preparing, get a good night’s rest the night before, and eat a “power breakfast” beforehand.

*Main image photo credit

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