SAT vs. ACT: Which test is right for your child?

It's an age-old question every 11th grade student must face: which college entrance exam is the best? The answer isn't so straightforward, and can depend on test-taking skills and preferences, strengths and challenges in certain subjects, and other various factors.

First, the similarities: Both the SAT and ACT are accepted by all U.S. colleges. The SAT and ACT include core subjects like math, reading and English. Both exams have an optional essay section and neither exam penalizes for wrong answers.

infographic: The SAT versus the ACT.





Natural science passages involve graphs and data interpretation. Natural science passages focus solely on comprehension of written material.
Historical passages often use archaic language that students may not be familiar with. Passages are geared towards a high school reading level.
Questions are in the same chronological order as the reading passages. Questions are random and do not follow the order of the content in the passage


Two math sections: one with calculator, one without. One math section with calculator.
Provides all major formulas. No formulas are given.
Math topics are heavily algebra-based. Math topics are algebra, trigonometry and geometry.


50 minutes to write essay. 40 minutes to write essay.
This essay assignment asks you to read and analyze an argumentative essay. You're then graded on three skills: reading, analysis, and writing. The prompt gives three perspectives on an issue and asks you to evaluate them. Normally there are two “opposing” opinions, and one that falls in the middle.
It doesn't matter what your opinion on the issue is (you should ONLY use examples from the passage)—rather, your task is to dissect the author’s argument using evidence and reasoning. The ACT Writing task requires you to analyze different perspectives on an issue and argue your own position on the issue at hand.


You should choose a test based on your child's strengths in these different areas in order to maximize their score.

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