Why Is ACT More Popular Than SAT?

For over five years, ACT has been the most popular test for college admissions and scholarships. In March 2016, College Board threw out the 2005 version of the SAT — but ACT remains number one. Why is that?

Two years ago, the redesigned SAT adopted many of the features of the ACT. The SAT essay is now optional and they removed the quarter-point penalty for wrong answers. The SAT Reading and Writing sections now look quite similar to the ACT. That said, there are still some ACT-SAT differences that stand out – and help to make ACT more popular:

1. The pace of the ACT is faster than SAT: fewer seconds for each question.
When students take the ACT for the first time, it is quite common to run out of time. Once they learn to manage time using strategies – and get lots of practice – they can beat the clock and get more questions right.

2. ACT is more straightforward than SAT: the answer choices are more clear and distinctive.
SAT often gives two answer choices that look right. It can be stressful and time-consuming for students to figure out which answer is THE right one. ACT gives answer choices that are simpler to differentiate.

3. The ACT Math section is built differently than SAT Math: all multiple-choice and all calculator-allowed.
The redesigned SAT Math includes a non-calculator section for the first time, which many students find more challenging. SAT Math also includes the dreaded grid-in questions, where you can’t guess the answer or work the problem backwards. ACT Math has none of these disadvantages. On top of that, the SAT Math score is 50% of the total SAT score, while ACT Math is only 25% of the ACT composite score.

4. ACT has a separate Science section (a data exercise), while SAT includes a few data questions in their Reading, Writing and Math sections.
The ACT Science section is unlike any test your student has seen before. The crazy thing is the Science score is weighted the same as Reading, English (multiple-choice writing) and Math. First, ACT Science really doesn’t test science knowledge. It’s a data exercise where students answer questions by finding the right nuggets of information in tables, graphs and charts. Then they apply some light data analysis to identify the right answers. Students can usually improve Science scores pretty quickly by applying strategies and getting plenty of practice – without having to build underlying subject skills.

Use this link to see a section-by-section summary of ACT-SAT differences.

How should your student get started? If they took the PSAT in October, we recommend they take a full-length ACT practice test (3 hours) to experience the look and feel of the fast-paced test. Then we’ll meet to compare the PSAT scores with ACT scores to see which test results are better. We’ll also answer your questions and discuss how your student feels about each test in order to select the least objectionable one.

If your student did not take the PSAT in October – or didn’t test well that day – we can administer our ACT vs SAT Comparison Test. It’s a pared-down version of both tests and takes 3.5 hours. In any event, Dogwood does not charge you to proctor any ACT-SAT practice tests. We then use those results to identify each student’s needs so our tutors can customize each one-on-one lesson. Call Ivan at 678-735-7555 to discuss how your child can achieve his or her best results on the ACT and/or SAT.

Combined ACT and SAT Prep

We’re not saying ACT is better for all students because SAT is still a good fit for many. For students interested in taking both tests, Dogwood offers a combined ACT and SAT program to prepare for both tests simultaneously. That’s not as ominous as it may sound. Our expert tutors work one-on-one with your student in our professional learning center, encouraging them to improve their skills.