Why I Took the ACT Instead of SAT


In my sophomore year of high school, I decided I would start studying for the SAT, because it seemed like that was the test everyone around me was planning on taking. I took countless practice tests and studied constantly for months leading up to my first test. I walked out of my testing room 4 hours later, exhausted and worried for my score. Shortly after, my fears were confirmed: I was about 100 points lower than my goal of 1500 out of 1600. Frustrated and confused, I immediately signed up for the next SAT test date and set an even stricter study plan for myself. A few months later, I was dismayed to find out that I had only improved a mere 50 points. Despite countless practice tests and a rigorous study plan, why couldn’t I figure out this test?


Then, I learned that the College Board submits every single SAT test score you attempt to colleges. So even if I took the SAT a third time and got a perfect score, colleges would still see my first two lower scores.


Terrified, I decided on a whim to give the ACT a try. My first mock test was rough - I completely bombed the Science section and ran out of time on almost every section. But as I sat down to review my mistakes and then continued to practice in the weeks afterwards, I saw my score improve at a much quicker rate than my SAT score ever did. Shortly after, I took the real test and was overjoyed to receive a near-perfect score of 35.


How did that happen? It’s quite simple actually. The answer is simply that the two tests cater to two different types of test takers, and my strengths just so happened to line up well with the ACT.


The key differences for me boiled down to the Science section, the timing, and my weaknesses in Math. I very quickly realized that the Science section is really all about knowing the right strategies. As soon as I learned the key pieces of information to look for in the graphs and diagrams, the Science section became a predictable pattern that I could consistently score well on. Don’t let the name of the section scare you into believing that you need to know any details about chemistry, biology, or physics. In reality, the Science section is simply testing your ability to analyze graphs, create hypotheses, and design an experiment.


As for timing, I’m a relatively fast worker who doesn’t get scared by the pressure of a timed test. In fact, I appreciated that the ACT allotted less time for each question, because that meant I wouldn’t have to stay focused for as long of a test. Plus, the ACT’s quicker sections catered well to my shorter attention span.


Finally, I know my strengths lie in Reading and Writing rather than Math. On the SAT, the Math section accounts for ½ of your overall score whereas it’s only ¼ of your overall ACT score. This meant that I could afford to lose more points on the Math section on the ACT without having it impact my overall score as much.


So ACT or SAT - which is better? Ultimately, only you can answer that question because only you know how your strengths line up with these tests. Your best bet is to take a diagnostic test for both options while mimicking a real testing environment. Don’t judge your mock test results strictly by which one is higher; instead, really think about which test lines up better with your strengths and will allow you to improve the fastest.

Whichever test you decide on, I wish you the best of luck!

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Take a free, graded diagnostic test for SAT or ACT by giving 7EDU a call at (408) 216-9109.

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