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Should I take the New SAT or the ACT?


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Should I take the New SAT or the ACT?


Flashcards or question of the day. Short practice quizzes or full-length practice tests. Cramming on vocab or grammar rules.

There are plenty of study decisions to be made when doing standardized test prep. For juniors, this year offers a big one – does it make sense to take the new SAT or to focus on the tried and true ACT exam? Some students know which one they want to take, either because their state or school offers one or the other, or because one test is more popular in their region. But for those who can easily take either, it’s not so clear cut in Spring 2016.

If you haven’t been reading up, The College Board (maker of the SAT and other nefarious tests you’ve taken) decided to update the SAT starting with the March 5 exam. Gone is the mandatory essay. Gone is the penalty for guessing. Gone is the score out of 2400. It’s a whole new test. Is it sounding awesome yet?

Many of the changes make the test easier -- in a way -- for students to take. And yet, the unknown is a little scary. Will the new test be easier? Or would you be better off sticking with the ACT?

Here’s what we suggest: Give yourself two Saturdays in a row, dedicated to test prep decision making. On Saturday #1, sit down and take a practice ACT. On Saturday #2, sit down and take a practice SAT. (You can grab free practice tests from ACT and The College Board, respectively, or from Chegg SAT Test Prep and Chegg ACT Test Prep). The tests are long (and boring) but taking a full test is the best way to get a read on which one is a better fit for you.

After you’re done, look at the scores you got for each. If one is stronger than the other, that’s a good gut check on which test you should probably focus your time on moving forward (you can compare SAT and ACT scores here). If your scores are similar, think back to how you felt when taking the test. Did one feel easier or less stressful? Then you have your answer.

From a content perspective, the new SAT is more similar to the ACT. There are scientific graphs to reference for example, and the test is designed to more closely match what you may be learning in school instead of how well you can learn to take a test.
Either way, the good news is that the SAT is offered 7 times per year and the ACT is offered 6. No matter what you decide to do, there’s plenty of time to do test prep for one, the other or both, as you get read to apply to schools.

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