Taking Both the SAT & ACT

By Carol C. Wood Founder & CEO Total Learning Concepts, Inc.

For students planning to attend college, taking college admissions testing is part of the preparation process. There are two primary tests in which students can anticipate taking: the SAT and ACT. While the SAT and ACT are 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.

It is important for students to 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, critically thinks, and applies his or her knowledge. 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.
  • Students sometimes 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 an above average IQ, they often will score higher on the SAT due to their natural ability to problem solve. By taking both tests, students can determine which test provides a better showcase for his or her abilities.
  • Another reason to take the ACT in additional to the SAT 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. Therefore, being able to guess “wildly” on one of the tests can help a student reduce the stress of testing.

I would encourage students to take both college entrance exams two times each before submitting their scores to colleges. Additionally, it is advisable to send test scores to colleges after the student has finished the testing process. Once the final test has been taken, using a conversion table, determine which test yields the higher scores and submit only that test to colleges to which applications are being sent. Today, some colleges will accept the best score from each test section and “super score” the overall result for admissions consideration. You should contact colleges to see if they super score.

Taking the SAT and ACT is an important step in finding the right college, but test scores are just one of many factors that colleges consider when making their admission decisions. High school grades are also very important. The combination of high school grades and SAT and ACT scores are the best predictor of a student’s academic success in college. What an exciting phase of a student’s life: the college admissions process!