According to NACAC, 58.3% of colleges place considerable importance on admission test scores. Chances are if you’re applying to college you’ll need to take either the SAT or ACT to gain admission, but which test—ACT or SAT—do colleges prefer? Which one gives a better chance at admission?
This question feels like one more thing to add to the pile of high school stressors, but thankfully the answer is not some secret hidden in the minds of admissions officers. In this article, we’ll explain how to know which test might give your applications an edge.
The short answer to which test colleges prefer is simple: either! All colleges and universities accept both the ACT and SAT in the U.S. What matters is the end is not which test you take but how highly you score, which is all about the percentile. The test that will make your application look better is the test on which your score is in a higher percentile nationally. For example, a 33 on the ACT is better than 1400 on the SAT because a 33 puts you in the 95th percentile of ACT takers, whereas 1400 puts you in the 92nd percentile of SAT takers.
Since all colleges and universities accept both tests, the next issue is how you choose which test to take and submit.
SAT vs ACT Differences
|Content||Take the SAT if you’re good at||Take the ACT if you’re good at|
|Reading||Reading Classics and Understanding Historical Documents.||Observing the details and reading fast.|
|Maths||Hand Calculations |
(No Calculators Section)
|Mental Maths and finding shortcuts|
|Science||Hating Science |
(No Science Test here!)
|Science, Interpreting Tables, Graphs and connecting information.|
(Informational Graphics from Charts and Graphs)
|Reading simple passages |
|Essay (optional)||Analyzing Texts |
(Analyze how to develop an Argument)
(Analyze different perspectives and present your own argument)
Advice for Choosing Your Test
ACT tends to be better for fast test-takers and students who excel at reading, whereas the SAT is more slow and steady and rewards maths mastery (because half of the test score is math-based). For most students, choosing which test to prepare for comes down to these differences, or to take a practice ACT and SAT and seeing which score comes out higher. However, there are a few extra factors worth noting.
Score Selection Options
When you submit your scores to a college, both the SAT and ACT let you choose which scores to send and which not to send if you’ve taken multiple tests. However, some schools require you to send all scores on record for whichever test you take.
Since most schools don’t have a problem with receiving just one test score, this won’t be an issue for most students. But for the students who plan to take multiple tests and apply to schools that require all scores on file to be sent, the ACT has a distinct advantage: you can delete your scores after you take them.
On either test, you can choose not to have your test scored if you have a feeling you did poorly. But only the ACT lets you delete the record of a test altogether after you’ve gotten the score back. This process takes some time, as you have to submit a written request. But if you plan well, this option is a nice perk.
If you took multiple ACTs and one was the best, you could delete every test except for your best test, submit it, and the colleges you apply to would be none the wiser. Or if one test is better in some sections and another test is better in others, you could keep just two tests that combine for the best super score.
Super Scoring Options
This leads to another important point: some colleges will take the super score of multiple tests from one test but not the other. For example, Harvard will super score multiple SATs submitted but not ACTs.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a “super score” is what your test score would be if you combined the best sections from multiple test sittings. For example, if you took the SAT in March and got a 710 on the Reading and Writing and a 690 on Math, then took another SAT in May and got a 700 on Reading and Writing but a 730 on Math, your super score would be 1440 (710 + 730) overall.
With both super scoring and score reporting, the potential benefits of each test depend entirely upon which schools you’re applying to, so you may need to do some research to find out the policies of each school. Thankfully, most schools post this information clearly in their admissions sections, making it easy to find it with a Google search.
As one final factor to consider, there are far more official ACT practice tests in existence than official SAT practice tests. For students who plan to study for a long time, perhaps because their target score is much higher than their starting score, the ACT might be slightly better. But this will only matter for students who plan to take a lot of tests, as the College Board has released 8 official SATs online so far—plenty for most students.
If you’re ready to reap the benefits of studying abroad, then you’ll be interested to learn that Uwezo’s students have enrolled themselves in some of the world’s best universities through excellent SAT and ACT scores. Uwezo Learning is one of the pioneers in online SAT Coaching and ACT coaching and career counselling since 2010 and has evolved to 25% of the students scoring above 1500 in the exams. If you’re an SAT or ACT aspirant, look no further than Uwezo.