How the SAT and ACT Differ (and How to Choose)

By Huntington Learning Center

How the SAT and ACT Differ (and How to Choose)

If your student is gearing up to take the SAT or the ACT this summer, you’re probably wondering…

  • How are these exams similar?
  • How are they different?
  • How should your student choose which one to take?

Let’s address each of these questions!

How are the SAT and ACT similar and different? 

At a glance, the SAT and ACT seem quite similar—and they are in many ways. But there are some important distinctions, summarized below:

How should your student choose which exam to take?

First things first: both exams are widely accepted at U.S. colleges and universities and both measure what students learn in high school and need to succeed in college. But the answer to which one to take comes down to preference. A few things to note:

  • The SAT tends to be better for strong, analytical readers and critical thinkers.
  • The ACT tends to appeal to strong writers since it has an optional essay where they can showcase their writing abilities.
  • Students who are less skilled at pacing themselves might prefer the SAT, which allows more time per question.
  • Students who are good at science (especially analyzing data, graphs and hypotheses) might prefer the ACT, since it has an entire section devoted to science. The SAT incorporates science into all areas of the exam.
  • Students who find doing math without a calculator to be difficult might prefer the ACT, which allows students to use a calculator on all math questions. The SAT Math Test is broken into a calculator section and a no-calculator section.

The best approach to making the decision on which exam to take? Have your student take a practice SAT and a practice ACT. This can help determine which exam suits their strengths better. That way, your student can focus their study efforts and achieve their best score.

If your student needs help deciding on which exam to take as well as preparing for that exam, call Huntington at 1-800 CAN LEARN. We’ll evaluate your student’s strengths and weaknesses and help them prepare for whatever exam they choose. We’ve helped thousands of students raise their SAT/ACT scores and earn admission into their colleges of choice. We can help your student do the same!