The most important factors to consider when deciding whether to prepare for the SAT or the ACT are whether you’ve taken Algebra 2 or Pre-calculus and how expansive your vocabulary is. The SAT tests vocabulary fairly extensively, the ACT does not. If you ‘ve taken Pre-calculus, the ACT might be for you. Otherwise, I recommend sticking with the SAT as the Math sections only test concepts learned through Algebra 2. The content tested on the ACT Math section is more advanced than content on the SAT because it includes Trigonometry and Pre-calculus concepts. Furthermore, the SAT gives you all the geometric formulas you might need, but you need to have them memorized for the ACT. Students generally prefer the ACT over the SAT because it’s more straightforward (the SAT is pretty tricky), although the ACT is more of a speed test.
The ACT Reading section contains easier questions and answers than the SAT Critical Reading section because the correct answer more exactly matches the wording of the text in the passage. The correct SAT Critical Reading answer choice may at most paraphrase the passage. While the ACT questions are generally easier than SAT questions, the order of the questions is more scrambled. On the SAT, the specific questions (ie those that refer to a specific word, line number, or paragraph) generally correlate to the passage in a linear fashion.
The ACT Science section is basically a glorified Reading section-doing well comes down to locating the correct columns and rows. You hardly have to bring any crystallized knowledge to the ACT Science section-it’s mostly testing your fluid intelligence (ie your ability to analyze and interpret novel scientific information in the form of studies, charts, figures, and graphs).
The real downside to the ACT is that you can’t take your Superscore like you can on the SAT. Superscoring is just taking your best performance on each individual section, regardless of the date on which you achieved that score. Although, apparently some colleges and universities have begun Superscoring the ACT as well.
If you’re in high school and plan to apply to college, chances are you’re taking a lot of standardized tests. There’s the SAT, ACT, AP tests, SAT Subject tests—the list seems to go on and on! Because there are so many standardized tests to take, it’s important to plan out when you’re going to prepare for and officially take these tests. The average student takes the SAT/ACT three times, but it’s fine to take it five times. You only get the opportunity to take AP tests once a year, and it’s okay to take Subject tests once or twice.
I recommend preparing for the SAT or ACT the summer before junior year (11thgrade).
Colleges don’t care which test you submit, but most require one or the other. Some colleges used to exempt ACT test-takers from submitting any SAT Subject tests because the ACT ostensibly seems to cover more subjects, but that’s no longer the case. The SAT consists of three different sections: Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. The ACT has four sections: English, Math, Reading, Science, and an optional fifth Writing section (however, you should definitely opt to take the Writing portion of the ACT).
If you prepare well the summer before junior year, you should be able to get the SAT or ACT out of the way that fall or early that winter.
I recommend three main dates for the SAT because the testing service only offers the full Question & Answer Service (which provides you with the test booklet, your answer choices, and the correct answers) on those dates: October, January, and May. Hopefully, you’ll be done with the SAT by May though, so that you may focus on AP tests in the spring. I recommend taking SAT Subject tests on the June date, preferably in subjects in which you were in the honors or AP class. AP Classes prepare you very well for Subject tests because the same company (College Board) designs both tests; however, definitely make sure to take some practice SAT Subject tests before you go in for the real thing too