Take the ACT in Addition to the SAT

by Carol Chandler-Wood


My son is a Junior in high school and will take the SAT this spring. I have heard that he should take the ACT, also. Is this true, and if so, why?


Yes, absolutely! Your son should definitely take the ACT in addition to the SAT. While the SAT and ACT are very different tests, they both fulfill the same role in the college admissions process. The SAT and ACT are designed to provide college admissions officers with two things: a predictor of a student’s first year academic achievement in college, and a common yardstick to use when comparing students from a wide range of educational backgrounds.

Your son should take both the SAT and ACT for the following reasons:

  • Colleges today accept either test for admissions purposes.
  • The two tests are different. The SAT is a critical thinking, deductive reasoning, and problem solving assessment. It tests a student on how well he/she problem solves and critically thinks. The ACT is an achievement or content-based test. It assesses what a student has learned as a result of his/her course work at school.
  • Your son may score better on one test than the other. Oftentimes, for a student who is conscientious and works diligently towards school course work, he/she will score higher on the ACT. For students who have a high IQ, they often will score higher on the SAT due to his/her innate ability to problem solve. By taking both tests, your son can determine which test provides a better showcase for his abilities.
  • Another reason to take the ACT is that it may save a student from having to take four SAT-II tests. Some colleges will not require a student to take SAT-II subject tests if he/she has taken the ACT.
  • There are penalties for guessing incorrectly on the SAT, however, there are no penalties for guessing incorrectly on the ACT.

My recommendation for your son would be that he prepare for and then take both college entrance exams two times each. Additionally, you may want to consider waiting to send his test scores to colleges after he has finished with the test process. After he has taken the SAT and ACT both two times, using a conversion table, determine which test yields the higher scores and submit only that test to the colleges in which he is applying. I have known students who were accepted into the college of their choice due to their high score on the ACT.

For information on the ACT, visit www.act.org and for information on the SAT, visit www.collegeboard.com. My best wishes to you and your son as he begins this exciting phase of his life; the college admissions process!