fbpx Taking the ACT? ENROLL in INSIGHT'S 2024 August ACT BOOT CAMP!

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.  


Want to see a side-by-side table comparison of the ACT vs. the SAT? Check out ACT vs. SAT: Which Test Should You Take?


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 

To compare your ACT score to your SAT score, use our ACT – SAT Conversion Table.

Blog Post

What Are Insight Students & Parents saying?
  • I liked the structured method by which Zach approached the whole admission process. First, there was research into colleges to make a list, then a rigorous back and forth on […]

  • Priya was absolutely amazing to work with! We are thrilled that our son got into his top choice for college at LMU for the undergraduate business program. We couldn’t have […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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 […]

  • I really couldn’t have gotten to Harvard without you. In shock. Thank you x10000000000000! I have the best college counselor in the world!

  • 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. […]

  • 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 […]

  • 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.

Contact Us