ACT vs. SAT

By Olivia Conte

When someone says the words “junior year,” the first things that usually come to mind are the ACT and the SAT. These acronyms tend to evoke panic amongst both the parents and the test takers. My future is riding on this score. If my kid doesn’t do well, will he/she get into college? Despite these fears, at least one of these tests is required for acceptance into most schools around the country and students should take the time to consider which one is best suited to them.  

The ACT, American College Testing, and the SAT, Scholastic Achievement Test, appeal to different students for different reasons. The ACT is offered six times a year, while the SAT is offered seven times a year. When taking into account which test is right for you, you should think about your areas of strength. The SAT, for example, mainly evaluates reasoning ability, while the ACT focuses more on specific knowledge of particular topics. For those with a strength in reading comprehension and vocabulary, the SAT might be the test to choose, while those who excel in grammar might be more inclined to take the ACT. Another determinant for some students is that the ACT has a section on science, and the SAT does not cover this subject at all. Another thing to consider is timing on these tests. If you are someone who has a short attention span than the ACT may be for you. It is known that the ACT lasts for approximately three hours while the SAT takes about four hours. Some students may be concerned if colleges prefer one test over the other but the bottom line is that both tests are equally respected. So as you prepare for college, my advice is to focus on the test which most showcases your strengths.

Some students know right off the bat which test is right for them by simply taking a diagnostic test for both the ACT and the SAT. Junior Jake Stern was immediately drawn to the ACT. He said, “after trying both tests, it was clear that the ACT was a better fit. I’m definitely more of a science and math kind of student, so it just makes sense that I would take the test that has more of that content.” Jake is in the majority at Byram Hills High School. According to guidance, most of the students at Byram Hills take the ACT over the SAT.

Regardless of which test you select, you can be sure that junior year will likely be focused on taking as many practice tests as you can, studying endlessly out of study books, and preparing for and taking one of these two dreaded tests.