Which exam should I take?
Both the SAT and ACT test basic skills and knowledge that have been acquired in high school and is one tool a school will use to assess a student’s chances of succeeding in college. However, the tests are different, and depending on a student’s particular strengths and weaknesses, one may score better on one test than the other. Both tests can be taken multiple times to try to improve one’s scores. You should however focus your efforts on taking one test. You don’t get extra points for submitting two tests.
Colleges use something called a concordance table to compare SAT and ACT scores. They don’t prefer one test to the other: they just like you to have the highest comparative score possible. A 1600 on the New SAT is equivalent to a 36 on the ACT – getting either score will give you the exact same quality application, and once you get one great score, you’re finished – there’s no point in getting two good scores.
If you want to see how different scores compare to each other and side-by-side comparisons of the exams, you can use this concordance chart.
In general, the ACT is more “curriculum-based”, testing academic preparedness, factual knowledge, and specific skills from subjects studied in high school. It reports a separate score for each of its four sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning), plus an overall score. The highest score possible on the ACT is a 36. The SAT contains critical reading, math, and writing sections. The highest score possible on the SAT is 1600. The SAT does not test science skills. The SAT tests math up to and including Geometry and Algebra 3-4, versus the ACT which includes Trigonometry. The SAT has a no-calculator section, while the ACT allows you to use a calculator throughout. The SAT stresses vocabulary more than the ACT due to the sentence completion questions. In the multiple choice sections, the SAT offers 5 choices per question while the ACT questions have 4 choices. Neither test will deduct for guessing (so you can guess without penalty). Both tests have optional (but recommended) essay sections.
Which test should you take?
Consider your test-taking strengths. You may prefer the SAT if you have an aptitude for solving problems or the ACT if you have a stronger academic background. It is important that you choose the test that makes you feel the most comfortable and confident. Try a practice test for both, and see which one you prefer. There are also online quizzes which can help you decide based on your personal strengths.