Why is the ACT the right test for you?

The ACT and SAT are two of the most common standardized tests for college admissions. One of the things we stress at Brains and Brawn is choosing the right test for you! Everyone’s different, so some students may do better on one test than the other. The best way to figure which one works best for you is to take a practice test from each test and then compare your scores and how you felt about each one. However, the information below can be helpful if you’re in crunch for time or are just curious about what makes the ACT unique. 


The ACT Reading tends to have fewer and less challenging vocabulary questions than the SAT. So if you aren’t a big reader with exposure to lots of different words or simply aren’t good with context clues, then the ACT could be right for you.

Evidence-Based Questions

Both tests do require that your answers be backed up by what’s in the passage. However, the ACT doesn’t ask you to point to specific lines like the SAT does. This could be beneficial if you prefer reading to skimming (check out the differences here) because it saves you time from having to go back and re-read a bunch of lines. This is also nice for people who “just know” answers but have a hard time backing them up. Just keep in mind that your answer still has to be supported by the passage, but you don’t have to specifically point it out on the ACT.

Math Topics

The ACT and SAT test many of the same topics, but they do differ slightly. The ACT has more geometry problems, which might work in your favor if you enjoy the subject. Though the ACT tests a few more topics, such as matrices, there are many questions that are like the ones you’d find in a textbook while the SAT consists of more critical thinking and word problems. 

Math Section Set Up

The ACT allows you to use a calculator on the entire math test, while the SAT only allows it on part of the test. If you’re not comfortable with mental math or hand-calculations, the ACT could be a better fit. Additionally, the ACT is all multiple choice, whereas the SAT has a few grid-in questions. So if you have trouble with a question or run out of time on the ACT, you can guess and at least have a 20% chance of getting it correct. If the same thing happens on the SAT, you wouldn’t be able to really guess on grid-in questions. 

Grammar and Charts

The ACT English and SAT Writing are fairly similar. Overall, the ACT has more emphasis on punctuation, while the SAT likes to ask about writing style. The ACT could be a better fit if you’re not a fan of trying to rephrase what others have written and are comfortable and super familiar with punctuation and grammar. The ACT English also does not contain charts and graphs, while the SAT does. 

Science Section

One of the major differences between the ACT and SAT is that the ACT has a Science section that is specifically designed to test your understanding of experimental design and reading charts and graphs. The SAT tests reading charts and graphs as well, but they’re interspersed within the Reading and Writing sections. The ACT could be a good fit if you have a strong grasp on understanding experiments as well as analyzing graphs. Also, if you prefer not having to worry about analyzing quantitative data as well as comprehending reading passages at the same time, the ACT could be a better fit as the former skill has its own section. 


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