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Should You Be Taking BOTH the SAT and the ACT?

Today we’re going to be answering one of the most common questions we hear as counselors: “Do I need to take both the SAT and the ACT?”  


The answer to this question is “NO!”  You absolutely do not need to take both exams!


In fact one of the common errors we see sometimes when students come in for the first time is that they will have spent the better part of 2 years taking & retaking both the examsHere’s the truth – Colleges do NOT care which exam you take. Every college will accept either test, which means that your decision will depend on: 


Which test are you most comfortable with? 

Which test is the best fit from a timing perspective?

Which test can you score better on?


So, let’s talk about a few ways in which the tests are different. 


The ACT, which tends to be a little more straight-forward in its presentation of material, also contains a full science section which the SAT does not.  This section, which follows English, Math, & Reading in that order, makes up a quarter of your total composite score, so if you’re a student who is generally science focused, and you enjoy reading, graphs, & data, the ACT may be a good fit for you. Each of the 4 ACT sections is scored out of 36, and your total composite score is the average of those sectionsThere is also an optional writing section scored separately from the main composite score.  



While the SAT also offers an optional essay, the exam is scored differently than the ACT, as students will receive a total score out of 1600 points. You can earn up to 800 points in Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and 800 points in Math. The SAT also tends to present fewer timing challenges than the ACT, which has far more questions to completeWhere the ACT asks 215 questions it’s only 154 for the SAT, and the SAT allows more time to answer each of those questions on average. It also contains two math sections, one of which to be completed without a calculator, so how confident you feel as a math student may also impact your final decision.  



At Insight, we strongly encourage students who have not tried either test to take both for practice before making a decision. Doing this will expose you to the style and structure of both exams, & then we can establish which test you are more comfortable with in terms of content and timing, and ultimately which test youre likely to score better on.  From there, we can plan for when to take the exam, which is important because the SAT and ACT are offered on different dates & in some cases, different months throughout the year.  We also want to establish a goal score for each student, as well an end date when we want students to be finished with testing altogetherIdeally, you should be done before the start of your senior year, b/c once senior fall starts, your college apps truly will become a full time class away from school, and you don’t want to have to give up valuable weekends completing diagnostic testing at that point.   



Overall, we want you to choose the right test at the right time, and we want you to be strategic, so that you don’t overload yourself. And the earlier we can begin to make both short and long term plans for testing, the more flexibility you allow yourself later on. 


All the best! 
Zach Pava and Team Insight 


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  • Thank you so much for helping me formulate my thoughts into words and help me write my essays. I got into Ut Austin for biology – still waiting for the Honors decision. I also got into Drexel undergrad – still waiting for the BSMD decision. I will be sure to update you when I hear […]

  • I just wanted to thank you again for your help during the college admission process. My family and I have been scrambling to figure out the process for years, and especially coming from an immigrant family and being the first in my family to go to college in the US, there was a lot of […]

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  • I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time out of your day to organize a meeting with me and help me in writing my summer program essays. Your feedback really helped my writing and me as a writer. 

  • I just got my SAT scores on Friday, and I am happy to let you know that I scored an 800 on both the Biology-M and Math II tests. Thank you so much for your help and constantly encouraging me. Also, please thank the rest of the Insight team for me for providing complimentary practice […]

  • Our ACT instructor methods were so helpful and wonderful to have.

  • Zach, thank you so much for helping me become a confident and successful writer

  • We were extremely happy throughout the process – got much more than what we invested in Insight counseling.

  • From their knowledge of all the colleges and resources, professionalism and the hands-on coaching, Insight has raised the bar!  

  • Insight counselors truly care about students not only during their time at Insight but further along the road.

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