TL;DR Resources: SAT & ACT

By Haley G.
May 05, 2022 · 4 minute read



Why the SAT and ACT are Still Important

Standardized testing is one of the foundations of college admissions, factoring in heavily on the academics side of the equation. The most important standardized tests for college are the SAT and ACT. In the past couple of years, these tests have begun to lose importance — Harvard has declared that it will remain test-optional until 2026 and most California universities are test-blind for the foreseeable future, due to several factors, most notably the Covid-19 pandemic. However, some universities, such as MIT and public universities in Florida, have begun to require tests again, and even in cases where they are not required, good test scores (those in the 50-75th percentile or higher at the school in question) can be a powerful factor in helping students get into college, especially in cases where they did not have the opportunities for a rigorous course load or outstanding extracurriculars. Throughout these changes, however, the two biggest questions around the SAT and ACT have remained the same, which to take and how to study.

Aspects to Keep in Mind

There are several different factors to consider when deciding between the two tests. The first is cost. While the cost to register for the test only differs by five dollars, with the SAT being the cheaper of the two, fee waivers are available for both, though SAT fee waivers are significantly easier to get access to. Study resources are also something to keep in mind when deciding which test to take. Both the SAT and ACT provide free study resources to students who qualify for fee waivers, and YouTube has excellent resources available for both; however, Khan Academy has an SAT study course which I wholeheartedly recommend. It is, in my opinion, the best way to study for the SAT. The ACT, unfortunately, does not have the same partnership with Khan Academy that College Board does, but there are still plenty of free practice tests and study resources available. 

Determining Potential for Success

The most important factor for students to consider; however, is success. The SAT and the ACT are structured very differently from one another. The SAT is split into two parts each with two sections each. In the English section, there is a reading part and a writing part, and in the math section, there is a math without calculator and a math with calculator part. On the ACT each individual part is scored as its own section and these sections are as follows: reading, writing, math, and science reasoning. The difference in sections is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly because it gives people taking the ACT an advantage when superscoring since there are more sections, but mainly because math makes up a different proportion of the test. On the SAT math is 50% whereas on the ACT math is only 25%, so if math is a weak point then the ACT is much more forgiving. Additionally, the SAT requires test-takers to get a perfect score for a 1600, whereas it is possible to get a 36 on the ACT without getting everything right on all the sections, but the biggest difference between the two tests is the skills they emphasize. The SAT focuses much more on higher-order thinking and analysis skills and the ACT is mainly about speed and accuracy. 

How the Tests Prepare You for the Future

The final thing to consider when choosing whether to take the SAT or the ACT is preparation for the future. Whether either test prepares students for college is a point of contention, but taking the SAT does have some advantages the ACT lacks, purely because the College Board controls the majority of high school level standardized tests. The SAT reading questions are very similar, though admittedly easier, to the multiple-choice questions on the AP Language and Composition and the AP Literature and Composition tests, and familiarity with this question style from the SAT can make it easier to succeed in these classes. Additionally, familiarity with the SAT can help students who are trying to get National Merit Scholarships through the PSAT as the test structures are virtually identical and the topics in question the same.


Although the significance of SAT and ACT tests in the college application process has decreased, it is still crucial to learn how to prepare and take the tests. Realizing the differences between each test and finding which exam is better suited for you will help strengthen your chances of earning a top score.

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About The Author

Haley is a junior in high school and is in six D&D groups.

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