When a Fairfield high school student asks himself should he take the SAT or ACT tests, there are two questions to ask –
- Of the schools I am looking at, do they strongly prefer the SAT or ACT?
- Am I better at the SAT or ACT?
The first question is easy to answer. If there is no strong preference of one test over the other, then proceed to the next question. But, to answer the second question takes some research and introspection.
The easiest way to determine if your son is better suited for the SAT or ACT is to review his preliminary tests, the PSAT and PLAN test, respectively. These predictive/prep tests are cheaper and shorter versions of the SAT and ACT. Typically taken in the 10th grade, you can sign up for either test through your local high school. If your child takes both, and he does better on the PLAN test, then he should simply take the ACT over the SAT.
But, if taking those preliminary tests is not an option, or if you’d like more insight, here are some tips to determine which test is best for you.
First, let’s start with the basics. The SAT is an aptitude test. The ACT is an achievement test.
What does that mean?
It means the SAT tries to evaluate raw intelligence (however hard that may be). So, as the test-taker, your son should ask himself these questions:
- Am I quick-thinking? Do answers come quicker to me than to my peers?
- Am I analytical, able to see decipher the important information and make the right answer? Do I usually see through the tricks certain questions pose?
- Do I have a strong vocabulary?
If the answers are all yes, the SAT may be better suited for you.
To gauge how you may fare, it helps to see how the average Fairfield high school student performs on the test. For a look at Fairfield Ludlowe and Fairfield Warde’s average SAT scores, click the Hartford Courant’s helpful link that compares all the average SAT scores in the state.
The ACT tries to evaluate what you’ve learned, or what you know. Here’s some insight that may help you.
- Do you enjoy science and have trigonometry experience? The ACT requires you to know basic trigonometry and there is also a science section (there is no science section on the SAT).
- Are you great with grammar? The ACT asks grammar questions that require you to really know when to use those commas. There is also less vocabulary.
- Do you carry greater attention to detail than most and enjoy the process of completing schoolwork? Do you struggle with some test anxiety and struggle with bouncing from one section to another? If yes, the ACT is better suited for you, as the ACT does not penalize wrong answers while also following a predictable structure to its various sections.
It also helps to compare SAT and ACT scores when determining which test to take. The SAT ACT Converter by the ACT compares the two. For example, let’s say you have taken the SAT and not the ACT. Now let’s say your school of choice prefers or requires an ACT score. The converter should provide you a reasonable guess at how you’ll do, giving you some reassurance before you take the test.