Deciding Between Taking The SAT & ACT? Here’s How To Choose

Deciding Between the SAT and ACT? Here’s How to Choose

Despite colleges having gone test-optional or test blind, nearly 1.9 million high school students in the class of 2023 took the SAT at least once, according to College Board data. Nearly 1.4 million students took the ACT.

Most experts recommend taking either test if you can score well on one of them.

“No college has a preference between the two tests,” Ginger Fay, a consultant for Green Apple College and Guidance, a college admissions consulting firm. “They’re like two children. They love them both the same. They just want them to be good.”

US News recently provided a detailed analysis comparing the two exams and offered expert insights to help applicants determine which test is the best fit for them.


One of the biggest changes to the SAT coming in March of this year is the shift to a digital format, which will cut testing time down to two hours and 14 minutes rather than three hours.

The new, shorter SAT is broken down into two sections: a 64-minute reading and writing section and a 70-minute math section. In comparison, the ACT lasts two hours and 55 minutes. With the addition of the 40-minute optional writing test, the complete duration is a little more than three-and-a-half hours.

“In general, the SAT is much more generous time-wise,” Allen Koh, CEO of admissions firm Cardinal Education, says. “You have much more time per question so you can really think about each question. If you lose focus easily or you’re a slower standardized test-taker, the SAT is probably better for you.”

The new changes to the SAT will also replace lengthy reading passages with shorter versions. Now, each reading is associated with a single question, as opposed to multiple questions.

“So if you’re not as strong of a reader or you’re less focused, the SAT could be better for you,” Koh says. “The paradox is that the average question on the ACT is easier, but you just get so much less time per question, and that’s what makes the ACT challenging.”


Both the SAT and ACT hold equal weight in admissions, and while some students may choose to take both, experts recommend sticking to one in order to optimize your test prep.

“Even with the overlap between the tests, you’ll need to take a few practice tests for the second test you focus on, and take the time to make sure you fully understand the differences between the two tests,” Alex Heimbach, of PrepScholar, says. “This will amount to roughly 10-20 hours of extra test prep.”

Sources: US News, PrepScholar, College Board

Next Page: Dartmouth College to Reinstate Standardized Testing

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