As they enter their year, many high school students find themselves wondering, “Should I take the ACT or SAT?” In general, it’s a good idea to take both of these tests, as doing so may help you stand apart from other students who have only taken one or none. 

However, there are several reasons why you may choose to take just the ACT over the SAT or vice versa. Piqosity covers these and other important factors below to help you determine which test is better for you. 

Reasons You May Choose Either the ACT or SAT Instead of Both Tests

Again, it’s generally best to take both the ACT and the SAT. Doing can give you multiple ways to stand out and may ease the burden to generate an otherwise holistic application. This is especially true if you are a non-traditional student whose application has inconsistencies, a low-income student who has struggled to partake in extracurricular activities, or a smart student who has (for whatever reason) struggled in school.

That said, there are some circumstances in which taking just one test will have benefits. 

1. The idea of taking two tests feels overwhelming to you: 

If you find test-taking situations difficult, adding a second standardized test to your school year to-do list may be a poor choice for your mental stamina and health. Additionally, the SAT and ACT cover different content, are of different lengths, have a different format, and come with different requirements. Again, if test-taking causes you anxiety or stress, then taking two tests may be unsettling enough to get you a lower score on both tests, instead of a high score on one. 

2. The cost of taking the two tests is prohibitive: 

Both tests offer fee waivers, but if you are not eligible for these waivers or your state/district doesn’t cover the costs of the exam, the cost of taking both tests may be prohibitive. 

As of this writing, taking the SAT costs $55, and the ACT costs $60. If you choose to add the writing section of the ACT to your test, the total fee is $85. All told, if you take both full tests, the cost comes to a total of $140. You will also want to take into account whether or not you plan on taking a test prep course or purchasing test prep materials,

3. You can’t make the test dates work for you: 

Each test has specific testing dates, and if those testing dates don’t work for your school and/or work schedule, then you may be able to take only one test. 

4. Your college of choice is test-optional: 

If your preferred college is test-optional, this means that the school lets the students decide if they would like to submit test scores with their application. Test-optional colleges will look at other evidence for admission, including your essays, grades, recommendations, and more.  

If your top choice school is test-optional, it may be tempting to skip taking the ACT and the SAT altogether. However, as stated before, doing so can create an undue burden to generate an otherwise holistic application, especially if you have special circumstances. 

OK, I Want To Take Only One Test… Should I Take the ACT or SAT? 

If any of the above situations apply to you, then you’re probably thinking, “Well, should I take the ACT or SAT?” To many, it may seem like the ACT and the SAT must be simply two different sides of the same coin. After all, they are both admissions tests that help students get into colleges and qualify for certain scholarships. And do colleges prefer the ACT or SAT? No. Colleges do not prefer the ACT over the SAT or vice-versa. So which should you take?

To determine which test is best for you, you need to consider whether one test may be required of you, test difficulty and length, your personal academic strengths and weaknesses, and your availability on test dates. 

1. Does Your State Require That You Take the ACT or SAT? 

Certain states require that you take either the ACT or SAT, and your home state may play some part in which test you are statistically more likely to take. In general, if you live in the Midwest, you’re more likely to hear of more students taking the ACT; if you are located on either the east or west coast, you’ve probably been preparing for the SAT. 

As of 2021, the following is true:

  • States that require the ACT with writing: Alabama, Hawaii, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Caroline, North Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin
  • States that require the ACT, writing optional: Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming
  • States that require the SAT: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, West Virginia
  • States that require either the SAT or the ACT: Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Idaho

States that require that you take a test typically pay for the test administration. 

2. Is the ACT or SAT Harder For You? Pros and Cons of the ACT vs. SAT.  

Whether you will find the ACT or SAT harder is dependent on your own academic strengths and weaknesses. This is because there are content differences between the ACT and SAT.  Use the below to create your own pros and cons list or check out our in-depth article on the differences between the SAT and the ACT

  • There is no science section on the SAT. However, there is a science-based section on the ACT. So, if science isn’t your strong suit, plan on taking the SAT. Or, if you excel in scientific concepts, you may want to add a “pro” to your ACT list.
  • The ACT contains a larger percentage of geometry questions. In fact, the ACT is made up of anywhere from 35% to 45% of these types of math problems. Only 10% of the SAT’s questions are typically based on geometric concepts. Therefore, if you are well-versed in geometry, you may choose to take the ACT over the SAT to show off your skills. If you struggle with geometry, consider the SAT.
  • If you find comfort in having a calculator available, you may prefer the ACT. The ACT allows you to use a calculator on all applicable sections of the test; during the SAT, there is a section where you are not allowed to use a calculator.
  • Are math formulas not your forte? The SAT comes with a math formulas chart that you are allowed to use during the test. The ACT does not.
  • Do you prefer data analysis over probability and statistics? The SAT contains no probability or statistics questions, only those concerning data analysis. If you like to avoid data analysis when possible, avoid the SAT and lean towards the ACT.
  • There is more reading to be done on the SAT than the ACT. The SAT has five reading passages, while the ACT has four.
  • If you struggle to focus during tests, you might be wondering, “Which is longer, the ACT or the SAT?” The SAT is three hours long. The ACT is two hours and fifty-five minutes long. However, if you add the essay, the ACT is three hours and forty minutes long.
  • Across the different sections, the SAT gives you more time per question. However, keep in mind that the questions on the SAT tend to be less straightforward and more complex. You will need that extra time.
  • Finally, the ACT covers more subject matter in general than the SAT. The SAT covers reading, writing, language, and math. The ACT tests on English, math, reading, science reasoning, and an essay, although the essay for the ACT is optional. 

So, which is harder, the ACT or SAT? Should I take the ACT or SAT? The answers to these questions are dependent upon who you are as a student. The key is to identify in which areas you will excel and use that information to make an informed decision.

3. Can You Make the ACT and SAT Testing in Your Area?

If you only have the ability to commit to one testing date, you need to know when these dates are in order to choose which test to take. These tests almost always occur on a Saturday, though those with religious exemptions may be able to take the tests on Sundays. 

  • SAT tests date are in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June.
  • ACT tests dates are in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.

Since there are so many testing dates throughout the year, you should be able to schedule at least one. But, make sure you schedule your test far enough in advance that you’re giving yourself the proper amount of time you need to prepare for it.

Want to up your ACT game? Our ACT test strategies will help you keep up the pace throughout all of the sections and help you learn how to improve your ACT score

I’m Still Not Sure Whether I Should Take the ACT or SAT. What Can I Do? 

If you have checked your state’s requirements, made a pros and cons list, and checked your local test dates, but still aren’t sure which test to take, then we recommend taking Piqosity’s free mini-diagnostic test to help you assess your strengths and weaknesses. These mini-diagnostic tests are available through our free Community Plan and are available after you register with Piqosity. Registration is free, takes less than 30 seconds, and does not require that you submit your credit card information. 

I Know Which Test I Want To Take. What’s the Best ACT and SAT Test Prep?

Now that you can answer the question, “Should I take the ACT or SAT?” with confidence, it’s time to get studying. To get an objective view of your strengths and weaknesses, take Piqosity’s FREE mini-diagnostic test, then check out ACT or SAT test prep packages. With Piqosity, you can enjoy access to up to 10 full-length practice tests as well as a parent-tutor consultation. 

All of our practice tests are either full-length ACT practice tests or full-length SAT practice tests, depending on the course you select.

And remember: no matter what test you choose, Piqosity has your back. Start practicing for FREE today! 

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