ACT or SAT: Which Test is Better for You? | Winward Academy


New Year’s Resolution in March: ACT or SAT?

It’s still a new year full of hope, possibilities… and decisions. The big one on a lot of students’ minds as Spring exams rapidly approach: should I prepare for the ACT or SAT? Here’s how to get that figured out so you can cross it off your to-do list and get down to work.

It all comes down to what’s right for you and knowing how the tests are unique. So, let’s break those differences down. While they can both be stressful (duh), there are actually quite a few ways to determine which exam’s better for you.

Take for instance every mathematician’s best friend: the calculator. If you want to use one on the test, then the ACT has the edge. While you can use a calculator on certain parts of the SAT, there are also parts of the test where it isn’t allowed.

But there’s no such thing as a free lunch. ACT takers receive less time per question than students who take the SAT. So, if you’re a test taker who likes to stop and smell the pencils, then the SAT might be a better fit. Think of it like this: Does the idea of not having enough time for every single question sound terrifying? You’re #teamSAT.

Both tests have essay sections, but they’re a little different. Whereas the ACT asks students to present and support their own original argument, the SAT tests a student’s ability to critique existing arguments. Would you rather create your own argument from scratch or try to poke holes in somebody else’s? What comes more natural to you?

And there are other differences. The ACT has a separate science section that tests skills in interpreting figures, tables, and graphs and in finding information in passages. Notice the ACT science section does not require that you show up with pre-existing Chemistry, Physics, and Biology knowledge. That’s a very common misperception.

Instead of having a separate science section, the SAT incorporates skills required for the ACT science section into its longer reading section (65 minutes of Reading on the SAT with 35 minutes of Reading and 35 minutes of Science on the ACT).  Also, vocabulary on the SAT tends to be more challenging than on the ACT. Geometry appears more often on the ACT than the SAT.

So you know some of the major differences. Now’s the time to keep your new year’s resolutions in action and start preparing. You can take a short ACT vs SAT quiz to get a jump start to identify which might be better for you. Even better, take full-length, timed practice tests of both and compare your scores. If you score in the top 10% on the ACT and the top 25% on the SAT, then go with the ACT.

If this was 2018, you might think taking two practice exams on your Spring break is kind of a bummer. But this is 2019. This is the New You. And the New You is ready, willing, and eager to get the ball rolling. The New You eats these tests for breakfast. Step one: figuring out which one tastes better.
Who’s hungry?

If you need help accessing an ACT and SAT diagnostic, please contact us at 858.764.2591 or and we’ll be happy to help get you started at no cost to you.

About Winward Academy – Winward Academy is one of the world’s leading innovators in the online education space, providing web-based academic support that enhances students’ knowledge, confidence, and competitiveness in middle and high school academics and in college applications. We help thousands of students every year by providing personalized, comprehensive ACT prep, SAT prepand extensive math curriculum support. The Winward Academy learning platform honors over 40 years of education and cognitive psychology research, incorporating proven techniques that promote effective learning.

Winward Academy’s unmatched reputation is wholly attributable to our students’ exceptional success and to the trust earned among students, parents, and schools around the world.

Mike Krumboltz

Mike Krumboltz is a journalist who also writes fiction. He holds an MFA in creative writing and lives in Oakland with his wife and daughters.