Pros and Cons: Taking Both the ACT and SAT

Are you considering taking both the ACT and SAT? There are ACT and SAT pros and cons

Flickr user Shannan Muskopf

Typically, a student will take either the ACT or the SAT as their college entrance exam. However, a growing trend shows that more and more high schools students are taking both tests. Are you considering taking one or both the ACT or SAT? If you’re thinking about the latter, here are some ACT or SAT pros and cons to keep in mind before signing up for multiple test dates.

ACT and SAT Pros:

One test might suit you better than the other

The ACT and SAT are set up differently—the ACT tends to be a little more straightforward in what it asks, while the SAT encourages some critical thinking to discover the right answer. Of course, it may be hard to tell which type of test you’d prefer until you take both of them. Depending on the kind of student or learner you are—technical, visual, interpretive, etc.—you might score better on one or the other, so it doesn’t hurt to try out both and see which one works best.

Studying for one can help you prepare for the other

Oftentimes the material both exams test on is similar, even if they ask the questions in different ways. Therefore, brushing up on your algebra skills will be beneficial to both exams. This means you can streamline your studying and reinforce different content.

Impress admissions officers

What’s better than a good score on the ACT? A good score on the ACT and the SAT. Twice the entrance exam, twice the kudos. While colleges have no preference between either test, turning in scores from both shows your dedication to academics, which is a big highlight on your application. Plus, the more information you can give to a college, the better—this will allow them to better assess you and your potential fit at their institution.

ACT and SAT Cons:

More / different studying

You know how we said earlier that sometimes the material can translate from one test to the other, well that doesn’t necessarily go the same for how to study all of it. For example, the more math-formula intensive ACT will allow you to use the calculator on the whole test, but won’t give you a formula-cheat sheet. The SAT, however, restricts your use of a calculator but gives you a formula guide. So if you’re planning on taking both, you can’t always rely on format of one.

Time commitment 

In addition to the extra studying required, you’ll have to attend multiple several-hour-long tests. That will eat up a few weekends—even more if you consider taking either or both for a second time to increase your scores. This time commitment can draw focus away from other important things, like homework, normal tests, and filling out college applications.


Things can add up quickly when it comes to college. The ACT (without writing) costs $42.50 to take, and with writing—$58.50. For the SAT, those costs are $45 and $57 with the essay. So if you plan on taking both, it’ll take a chunk out of you wallet. Of course, there are fee waivers that will cover the cost of the exam if you qualify and can’t pay for it on your own. All the same, it’s an important thing to keep in mind when deciding whether or not you want to take both.

There are good things and bad things about every decision, and it’s always important to do your research to make an informed one. So what are you thinking? Is two better than one?

Interested in seeing how your ACT / SAT (or both!) scores affecting your admissions chances for a certain school? Use College Raptor’s free match tool to find out!

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