Question: Should I take the SAT or ACT?

Answer: Take both. The SAT and ACT can improve your chances of bypassing college placement exams (TSIA, Accuplacer, etc.) and gaining college admission and scholarships.

[Scholarship programs that require SAT or ACT scores]

Here are 4 additional reasons for taking the SAT and ACT.

1. Most admission and scholarship committees will accept scores for either exam.

2. Take the SAT and ACT because you might be accused of cheating.

I’m biased: I believe that my students are angels who keep their eyes on their own paper. Unfortunately, test administrators have other ideas.

A few years ago, one of my students was applying for college admission and scholarships with his stellar SAT score. However, the College Board suspended his SAT score during fall of his senior year; it was as though he never took the exam. Although his father is a prominent criminal defense attorney, the student lost his appeal of the College Board’s decision. He had less than a month to test within a certain range on the SAT to regain his score.

He, his parents, and I were stressed. Within a month, he prepared for and took multiple official SAT and ACT exams. In case the SAT didn’t work out, he was relying on an ACT score to save his collegiate aspirations. Ultimately, his ACT score was as good as his SAT score. Had he taken the ACT in the first place, he could have submitted his strong ACT score to colleges and minimized the SAT melodrama.

Similarly, the ACT charged one of my students with cheating because her score jumped. We spent many hours and great effort to prepare for the ACT. If her score failed to improve, someone should have investigated me. She was already a college student when ACT suspected her of wrongdoing. The student and her parents worried that ACT’s decision would cause the university to revoke her admission. Ultimately, the ACT appeals process exonerated her.

3. Although the pandemic does not dominate our lives as much as it did in 2020 and 2021, testing sites are still experiencing glitches.

Last year, the College Board notified two of my 11th graders that it was closing their June testing site. With only a few days’ notice, the students could not choose another place to take the exam. The College Board recommended that they reschedule for late August — nearly 3 months later.

Last spring, one of my 12th graders (12th grader!) took the April ACT. Usually, ACT scores are available 2 weeks after the test administration. In late May, the ACT informed her that the testing materials at her testing center had been lost and directed her to take the June ACT (3 weeks away). Who wants to cram for the ACT in the midst of choir concerts, prom, graduation, and college visits?

4. Your ACT score may be higher than your SAT score or vice versa. Usually, I prepare students for one exam and encourage them to take the SAT and ACT.

We have prepared for the SAT and their ACT scores have surpassed their SAT scores. On the other hand, we have prepared for the ACT and their SAT scores have surpassed their ACT scores. [How to compare SAT and ACT scores.]

Still, do not expect one test score to eclipse the other. Very rarely have I met a student with a 28 (out of 36) on the ACT and a 940 (out of 1600) on the SAT. Similarly, very rarely have I known a student with a 17 (out of 36) on the ACT and a 1400 (out of 1600) on the ACT.

Additional Resources

  • ACT/SAT Concordance: Convert between ACT and SAT scores.
  • Guide To Preparing For the SAT: Originally titled “Guide to the December SAT,” it’s applicable to any SAT. The guide includes a practice test and pointers for each section of the exam.
  • Guide to Preparing For the ACT: Originally titled “Guide to the December ACT,” it’s applicable to any ACT. The guide includes a practice test and pointers for each section of the exam.

Article by Scholar Ready


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