Why You Shouldn’t Take Both the ACT and SAT

An empty classroom filled with desks and chairs.

Flickr user Daniel

It’s often suggested that you should take both tests to see if you do better on one than the other, but this isn’t the rule of thumb for everyone. In fact, taking both may be detrimental to your scores. Here’s why taking both the ACT and SAT may not be the best decision for you.

It Cuts Into Your Study Time

If you’re pressed for time due to school work, a job, extracurricular activities, and more you may find it difficult to fit study time into your busy schedule. High school is already busy enough, especially if you’re also applying to colleges. Trying to study for two tests with this small window can make things more difficult than it needs to be. In this case, it may be in your best interest to focus on either the SAT or ACT and devote your study time solely to one exam.

One May Play To Your Strengths

The most obvious difference between the ACT and the SAT is the science section on the ACT. If you’re not the best in science, you may be leaning towards the SAT. However, if you’re great at science and love graphs and scientific data, the ACT might be the best choice. But there are plenty of other differences that you will want to consider beyond what subjects are on the exams.

For example, the SAT tends to give you more time to answer each question than the ACT. If you find you need more time per question, the ACT may be harmful to your overall score. On the other hand, if math is a weak subject for you, the ACT might provide the benefits. The SAT contains a math section where you aren’t allowed to use a calculator. Even the types of math tested on each exam are different.

It’s important to do your research into the differences between both tests. This includes the time per question, subject material, essay content, and more. You might find that one comes out the clear winner.

Take Both the PSAT and PreACT Instead

One way to determine if the ACT or SAT is better for you is by taking their respective preliminary tests—the PSAT and the PreACT. These two tests can give you insight into what their bigger counterparts are like. (Bonus: the PSAT can also qualify you for the National Merit Scholars program). Alternatively, there are plenty of full-length practice SAT and ACT tests online that you can take to see which one suits you more.

Taking both the ACT and SAT definitely does give you a chance to look at two scores to see which you performed better on, but, for some students, sitting for both just doesn’t make sense. If one exam plays your strengths more than the other, you should be focusing your study time on that test. Remember though that the decision is up to you and you should look at all avenues before making that final choice.

Check out how your ACT / SAT score affects your acceptance odds with College Raptor’s free match tool!


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