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SAT vs ACT Pros and Cons

If you know A-List’s Director of Staff & Curriculum Development John Oh at all, you know he loves a good sports analogy.

The Old Switcheroo

Well, this switch is not that old since the SAT changed in 2015. Lately, a few of my students have defected from the ACT to the SAT. Depending on one’s point of view, the SAT does have some advantages.

  • Alli hates ACT Science. The SAT has no science test. 
  • Ralph likes algebra but hates geometry and really hates trigonometry. The SAT has very little geometry and even less trigonometry. 
  • Jenny and Mike both prefer SAT Reading for the same reason: more time.

Typically, a student has 13 minutes for an approximately 700 word passage and set of 10 or 11 questions on the SAT.  However on the ACT, a student has only 8 minutes and 45 seconds for an approximately 700 word passage and set of 10 questions

But, with the good comes the bad: some SAT Reading questions are more complex than ACT Reading questions. The SAT Reading test is 65 minutes long. The ACT Reading test is 35 minutes long. Think of SAT Reading as a marathon and ACT Reading as a sprint. Some students are just better at one type of race.

SAT Math has an entire test that does not allow students to use a calculator. Furthermore, both the SAT Calculator test and the No Calculator test have far more word problems than the ACT Math test. And, some of the word problems are very wordy. Think of ACT Math as a swim race in which one must use multiple swimming strokes in varying and quick succession. Think of SAT Math as a swim race in which one must use fewer swimming strokes but must – at times – also swim underwater to deeper depths of the pool. Again, some students are just better at one type of race.


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