It’s the age-old question that I’m asked by almost every parent: “Should my child take the ACT as well as the SAT? What’s the difference?” The reality is that neither test is superior to the other. They are simply the Coke and Pepsi of standardized testing and most schools accept both and weigh the two equally.

As always, the best way to check any information is to call the admissions offices of the schools you’re considering and ask. Remember, they want you to apply; they’re in business to make money and your $50 application fee is the tip of the iceberg, so they’re happy to answer your questions.

Although there is no hard science that proves that the ACT or SAT is easier, you probably want to determine which test format is better suited to your strengths. Each test has different emphases and familiarity with their individual structures may help you sort out which is better suited to you.

Here is some comparitive information to help you decide:

The Short Version:
While the ACT is said to test actual accumulated knowledge, the SAT often provides its challenge in simply understanding the question.

In either case, the content and test-taking skills learned in my class, though discussed in terms of the SAT, can be applied to both tests. I’ve contributed to The Anxious Test-Taker’s Guide to Cracking Any Test and 1,296 ACT Practice Questions, and my curriculum is prepared so that no additional class time is needed should a student decide to take the ACT, as well.

About the SAT:
When looking at the SAT in comparison to the ACT, a clear difference is that the SAT is designed to evaluate your general thinking and problem-solving abilities. It kicks things off with a required 25-minute essay. This is the start to the Writing section, which you’ll complete in addition to the Critical Reading and Math sections. The SAT differs from the ACT in terms of the amount of time you’ll have to complete it (3 hours and 5 minutes) and the format in which you provide your answers.

When considering the ACT vs. the SAT, keep in mind that both tests allot ample time for completion, but the SAT has fewer questions — 140 compared to the 215 on the ACT. The SAT also focuses heavily on vocabulary, while the ACT hones in on grammar and punctuation.

About the ACT:
The ACT sports four trademark multiple-choice subject tests covering English, Math, Reading, and Science. These are designed to evaluate your overall educational development and your ability to complete college-level work. You’ll have 2 hours and 55 minutes of dedicated test time to complete the subject tests, not including breaks.

As far as scoring goes, your four subject test scores (ranging from 1 to 36) are averaged together to come up with your overall, or composite, score.

The ACT also includes an optional 30-minute writing test designed to measure your skill in planning and writing a short essay. This segment is your chance to highlight your writing skills! If you opt to take it, the additional scores will be reported, along with comments about your essay. These scores are reported separately.

Still have questions? Contact me.

*some portions syndicated from