Standardized test scores are an important component of the college application process.  You have a couple options when it comes to those tests.  You can take the SAT, or you can take the ACT.  You could, actually, take both.

However, taking two major tests is a major investment of time, and it also costs money.  In order to minimize the time and money that you have to devote to this process, it’s probably best to choose just one test – either the SAT or the ACT.

Don’t know which one to pick?  Read on to learn more about which test is the best choice for you.

The Differences
Colleges will accept results from either the SAT or the ACT.  The two tests are pretty similar in terms of length and material covered.  So what are the differences?

Well, first of all, the SAT does not have a science section.  The ACT does have a 45 minute science section, which covers basic level earth sciences.

The math section is a major portion of both the SAT and ACT exams.  However, the math portion of the ACT covers higher level math.  The SAT focuses on algebra and geometry.  This is pretty basic, and doesn’t require much memorization.  However, the way the SAT math questions are asked are often very “tricky” and trap ridden.

You will even be provided with a formula reference sheet for the SAT.  The ACT covers trigonometry in addition to algebra and geometry, and you won’t get a formula reference sheet.  This means you’ll have to have all of those formulas memorized.

The English portion of the SAT includes sentence completions.  This section tests you on vocabulary words.  There are lots of SAT prep books on the market that you can use to study for this, so this section ends up being some pretty easy points.

The ACT is intended to be an achievement test that measures what you have learned.  The SAT, however, is an aptitude test.  It measures your reasoning and verbal abilities.

The ACT has 4 possible answers and does not penalize you for guessing.  The SAT has 5 possible answers and there is a quarter point penalty for a wrong answer verses omitting an answer.


If you are a strong math/science student you may score higher with an ACT test.  Actually more students in Arizona take the ACT than the SAT and tend to score higher on the ACT than they do on the SAT relatively speaking.  However, if you are a strong verbal student and a strong reader/writer, you may actually score higher on the SAT.  AT Scottsdale Education Center we can give you an ACT and/or SAT diagnostic test and compare the two scores to see on which test a student performs at their best.  Because of the big differences between the two tests…focusing on one or the other is best.  Focused preparation provides highest results.  Some universities are now accepting the ACT in lieu of the SAT plus the SAT Subject Tests.  Review your university choices website for details.  Some students perform remarkably better on one test or the other.  The investment in determining which test is best for your student is well worth it.

If you are preparing for the SAT or ACT and could use a little extra help, get in touch with Scottsdale Education Center. We have many programs available to help your child succeed in school.