Test Prep – Act vs. SAT

updated 9/2017

For students planning on going to college, junior year is ridden with college apps and tests, namely the ACTs and SATs. The rule of thumb has been “the east and west coast schools value SAT scores more, while the mid-west wants an ACT score.” While this used to be true, most colleges and universities currently accept both of these tests. There is also a trend toward using in house testing for new college applicants. Always check with the college you plan to attend to get the facts on which test to take.


As a student, your first concern may be “What’s on the test?” The ACT and SAT differ slightly in content included. The SAT includes only two sections: Writing/Language and Math.  Both of these portions of the test are absolutely mandatory. The writing portion of the SAT is now optional. The ACT, on the other hand, tests Math, English, Reading, Science, and Writing (if you so choose). WRITING: “Wait, they test writing only if I choose to do so?” That’s right. As a student, you decide whether or not you want to take the writing portion of the test. However, beware! Some colleges require the writing portion, some suggest it (and will look at it as an additive part of your score), and some do not care about the writing score. As a rule of thumb, if you aren’t sure where you’re applying yet, taking the writing portion is your best option. Cover all of your bases. COST: Each of these tests costs money, which is one reason why it is important to figure out whether or not it’s necessary to complete both. If you are only applying to schools that want the ACT, then don’t take the SAT. If you’re still unsure, as many college students are, take both of them, and then send your records only to schools that want that particular test score (as sending scores can be an additional cost). The actual cost of each test is very similar. So, financially speaking, there’s no benefit to choosing one test over the other.


Possibly the biggest difference between these two tests is the style of testing used. The ACT measures what you have learned in school (knowledge), whereas the SAT measures your verbal abilities and reasoning (aptitude) without solely relying on what you’ve learned in school. This means that, on the ACT, you’ll only see questions pertaining to what you have (or should have) previously studied. The ACT score is based on a total of 36 which is an average of the individual sections.  The new SAT has been redesigned and, in our opinion, is now very much like the ACT. The new SAT emphasizes higher level reasoning, and the College Board spells out the makeup of each section. This lends to more transparency for the student, as well as less test anxiety. The SAT score is based on 800 points for each section with a total of 1600 points.


There is now no longer any penalties for answering a question wrong. This then lends itself to students making sure each bubble is filled. Students simply get credit/points for only correct answers.


“The ACT is easier”

Many students that take both the SAT and the ACT claim that the ACT is easier, and/or students score better on the ACT. This is likely due to the fact that the ACT only includes questions regarding things you have (or should have) learned. Therefore, you’re more at ease in answering the questions, because it’s familiar to you. The SAT is now very similar. Where previously SAT questions used a “twist” or trickery to confuse the test taker, the new SAT is now very straightforward in the process.

Search WyzAnt ACT Tutors and SAT tutors in your area.

Edited ACT Prep Info for November 2019

Recent ACT scores indicate record-low scores in college readiness for English and math.  This recent report suggested four key recommendations to ensure college readiness for your student. 
  1. Academic rigor.
  2. Personalized learning.
  3. Continuous improvement.
  4. Holistic education, especially in social and emotional learning.
These low scores were across all ACT testing so it isn’t certain how homeschooling factors in. These four recommendations though are high on the list of goals we as homeschool parents have concerning our homeschool student’s education. 

March 21, 2014


  1. Anya says:
    Posted June 15, 2015 9:02 am

    Hi, I am a homeschool mother with two teenagers, living in the UK. My eldest daughter is preparing for the SAT at the moment, she will take it in October of this year. I found it quite difficult to find good preparation courses here, and the online ones are quite expensive. Through the homeschool-coop I was able to buy a 6 months course for 83% off (and for a duration that is twice as long as well). It is the Kaplan Online Test Prep Course for SAT or ACT:

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