- How broad is your math knowledge? Both the SAT and ACT have algebra questions, but the ACT questions include logarithms, matrices, graphs of trig functions, and other broader math concepts than the SAT. About 1/3 of the ACT math section is about geometry and trigonometry, whereas only 10% of the SAT’s math question touch on those topics. The SAT math portion also covers data analysis and modeling.
Determiner: If you are more familiar with algebra than geometry and trigonometry, then they should choose the SAT test. If you are strong in math and can memorize the basic formulas, then choose the ACT.
Determiner: If you prefer using a calculator for every type of problem, then choose the ACT.
Determiner: Comfort with using scientific data to determine outcomes will give you a greater advantage on the ACT.
4. Can you remember where the details are in reading passages? Both tests give you long reading passages with lots of details, but the SAT tells you on what line to find the information, or even if they don’t, the questions proceed in chronological order through the passage, whereas the ACT does not. The ACT leaves you to search through the passage for the information.
Determiner: If you can remember where the details are in a reading passage, you will have an advantage on the ACT.
5. How easily can you cite evidence for your answers? One of the recent changes to the SAT is the addition of a follow-up question in the reading section that requires students to cite evidence for the previous question. Here is an example:
Determiner: If you’re not familiar with finding evidence to support your answer, then the new SAT reading section will be especially challenging.
6. Are you better at grammar and punctuation or sentence structure and “main idea” questions? Both the ACT and SAT Writing sections (not the handwritten essay but the section where you fill in bubbles) use passage-based questions (this is new for SAT), but the ACT focuses a bit more on grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, plus some “main idea” questions. The SAT, on the other hand, focuses more on writing style, theme, and choosing the most appropriate word, resulting in more focus on vocabulary.
Determiner: If grammar and punctuation are your strengths, then choose the ACT; if writing style and vocabulary are your strengths, then choose the SAT.
Determiner: If time pressures make you go into brain stem mode, the SAT may be the better choice.