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How to Choose

3 Major Points of Difference

Format

The ACT will provide the option of paper or digital starting December 2023.

December 2023 will mark the final paper SAT. Effective March 2024, the SAT will be exclusively digital (save special accommodations). 

Students should think carefully about whether format really matters to them.

Worth noting is that the digital SAT will be section adaptive, so a poor performance on module 1 will lead to the easier module 2 and a lower score ceiling. A strong performance on module 1 will lead to a harder module 2 and a higher score floor.

Content

Both the ACT and SAT require students to be able to edit writing samples and answer related questions about them.

 

Both tests also require students to read select passages/paragraphs and answer questions about them.

After December, the SAT will be moving away from multi-paragraph passages, but the ACT will continue to feature them.

For math, both tests will cover pre-algebra, algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2, and SOH CAH TOA. The ACT will get into more advanced trigonometry as well as logarithms, matrices, vectors, combinations and permutations, and expected value.

The no calculator math section will be a thing of the past after December as students will be able to use their own calculators (SAT calculator policy) as well as a built in Desmos calculator on the digital SAT. The ACT has and will continue to allow students to use their calculators for the entirety of the math section, but there's a no TI-89 policy (ACT calculator policy). Note that the ACT is exclusively multiple choice so there are 5 options, but the SAT will feature some student produced responses so the multiple choice problems will have 4 options.

The ACT has a separate science section, which is essentially another reading section as fewer than 10% of the questions require outside content knowledge. The SAT addresses graph reading skills within its verbal section.

Pace

The ACT requires students to work at a far quicker pace than the SAT does. This is an important consideration for those students who tend to be a bit more meticulous and frequently find themselves among the last to hand in their tests at school.

Score Comparison

Check out the concordance page to see how your scores line up. If one test score is much better than the other, that's most likely going to be your test. If the scores are comparable, it will come down to personal preference.

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