Juniors: should you take the ACT or the SAT?

When the SAT was redesigned last year, we advised our students to take the ACT almost without exception. The SAT was still an unknown commodity. We had only four official practice tests—half of what we’d been told to expect—and the vaunted Khan Academy course was a huge disappointment because it did such a poor job of imitating the scant “official” materials that we had.

The school year (and test prep season) is nearing, and we find ourselves answering the age-old question—Should I take the ACT or the SAT?—once more. If the answer was extremely obvious last year, it isn’t quite as clear this time around. Let me tell you why that is, and offer you a couple of ways that you can answer the question for yourself.

In an apparent effort to rival the College Board’s ineptitude, ACT recently released significant changes to its flagship test. Without making an announcement. We got a new book from them (that is riddled with errors, but more on that in another post) that features some brand-new, higher-level math content. We can handle that math content—no problem. The issue is that we had no idea it was coming. ACT has a website where they can post information about changes to the exam. ACT has an email list (to which we are subscribed) that is meant to keep users updated about changes to the test. There is no mention of the changes to the math test in either spot.

So we’re between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the SAT still does not provide students (or tutors) with a breadth of legitimate and reliable practice material. The ACT is working to undo its reputation as the steadier of the two exams. We still have more than ten times the amount of practice material for the ACT than we do for the SAT, but, now that the ACT is different, those materials aren’t as reliable as they used to be.

It’s tempting just to wring our hands, gnash our teeth, and bundle our undies about it. But we are soldiers, and we have a mission: to get into the colleges of our dreams. Here’s how we are going to do it:

-Weighing the factors that make us a better fit for one test. Are you a really strong reader, someone who is reading a couple of grade levels above your classmates? Take the SAT. Are you a quick worker, the student that turns his/her test in with 10 minutes to spare? Take the ACT. Is Algebra your favorite math subject by a mile? SAT. Is science more your style? ACT.

-Take a practice test. You can find a practice ACT here and a practice SAT here. Set aside two blocks of 3+ hours and take them both (but NOT on the same day…what are you, a masochist?). Compare the scores. Think about your experience—did you prefer the format or style of one of the tests?

-Take our hybrid SAT/ACT Boot Camp. Offered this August 8-13, it is designed to give students both qualitative (how did you like it?) and quantitative (which test is likely to give you a better score?) ways to determine the right test for you.

-Know that you want to take the ACT? Sign up for our ACT-only Boot Camp, which is designed to get students fully prepared for their upcoming ACT tests this school year.

-Call us at 310-600-9595 to discuss all of your test prep options, including private tutoring.

-We also write our own books and practice tests. You can find them on Amazon. Click on the links below to check them out.

ACT Guide Book Cover


It’s a challenging test prep world we live in. Stay hungry, do the work, and stick with us. We’ll help you get across the finish line.

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