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Should I take the SAT or ACT?

June 2017

SAT vs ACT - American entrance testsAt UES London we’re often asked whether a student should be taking the SAT or ACT entrance exam, what the difference is, and which colleges accept the ACT compared to the SAT. The choice has become even more confusing given the major changes to the SAT that took place in March 2016, and the changes to the test dates in 2017.

In the UK especially, many people have only heard of the SAT, or consider the ACT to be somehow less respectable or not as widely accepted. These are both myths: in fact, worldwide more people take the ACT than the SAT! Furthermore, the ACT is accepted by all major colleges.

So what’s the difference between the SAT and the ACT? The most obvious is that the SAT is half English and half maths, whereas the ACT is half English, one quarter maths and one quarter science. However, it's more subtle than this, because the SAT actually has science questions hidden amongst the maths and English questions.

The biggest difference comes in the maths: the SAT has much harder maths that focuses mostly on algebra, and aims to test a student's natural mathematical ability. It has two sections of maths: calculator and non-calculator. The ACT maths, however, is more a test of knowledge and has a broader but less deep syllabus. There are more topics, but they're generally slightly easier. You can also use a calculator all the way through the maths on the ACT.

You shouldn't be put off by the science section in the ACT: it's not really science! It's more data interpretation, which comes up in the SAT as well.

Finally, the reading section in the ACT is a bit more time-pressured than in the SAT, which might be a consideration.

Which should you take? That depends. If you are very natural at maths, and particularly slow at reading, the SAT might be the way to go.

To aid you in your decision, we have designed an SAT/ACT Diagnostic Test. This test will give you a recommendation on which test to take, as well as full feedback on your stronger and weaker areas.

You should also try questions from both tests (available from us if you're having lessons with us) and ask for advice from experts, such as ourselves.

More information can be found on the CollegeBoard and ACT websites.

Please get in touch if you have any questions at all.
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