The Advantage of Taking Both the SAT and ACT

By Catherine Groux
Posted September 28, 2012 12:00 PM

A new study suggests students should take both the SAT and ACT.
A new study suggests students should take both the SAT and ACT.
Each year, students who plan on applying to college choose to take either the SAT or ACT. Frequently, schools will accept scores from either test, so it is up to students to examine the differences between the exams and determine whether they should take one or both.

Differences Between the Tests

While the SAT and ACT are both designed to determine how successful students will be in college, there are a few fundamental differences between the two exams. The biggest variation is that the SAT tests students' skills in the areas of critical reading, writing and mathematics, while the ACT examines their knowledge of English, mathematics, reading and science.

However, besides this basic issue, there are other small differences between the two exams. For example, the Princeton Review reports that the ACT is designed with the big picture in mind. When examining students' SAT scores, college admissions officials tend to notice how well they did in each of the three individual sections. With the ACT, they are more concerned with students' overall score.

Additionally, test takers tend to say the ACT and SAT are both challenging in their own ways. While the SAT places a stronger emphasis on vocabulary, the ACT tests students on more challenging mathematical concepts, including trigonometry.

The Benefits of Taking Both

While there are pros and cons to choosing one exam over the other, a new poll by Kaplan Test Prep reveals that, depending on which schools they are applying to, students may benefit from taking both. In a recent survey, 18% of admissions officers said there is an advantage to an applicant submitting strong SAT and ACT scores, rather than submitting a solid score from one test.

For this reason, Kaplan reports that in the past year, about 60% of its students have said they plan to take both the SAT and ACT.

"While the vast majority of schools say there’s no advantage to submitting scores from both tests, 18% is enough of a percentage to take notice," said Jieun Choe, Kaplan's executive director of K-12 and college admission programs. "With applicants competing for every advantage in the college admissions process, it may be one strategy to consider, as taking both tests can be viewed by some as a sign of extra drive and motivation."

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