FAQs

What are the main differences between the SAT and ACT?

After its redesign in 2016, the SAT now resembles the ACT in many ways. The SAT Writing and Language Test is virtually identical to the ACT English Test, giving students paragraphs with underlined portions that contain grammar errors or other areas for improvement.  

However, a number of differences remain. The redesigned SAT gives students more time than the ACT on all areas of the test. For example, a 10-question Reading passage on the SAT gives students an average of 12 mins. 30 secs., whereas a 10-question Reading passage on the ACT gives students only 8 mins. 45 secs. In other respects, the reading sections on both tests are quite similar.

Because of the increased time, some students have reported that the new SAT feels “easier” than the ACT. However, the redesigned SAT Math Test actually became a little more challenging than the ACT Math Test, introducing some trigonometry and other advanced math concepts that were previously not on the SAT. The ACT Math Test, by contrast, remains a little more straightforward than the SAT Math Test, consisting only of multiple-choice questions; the SAT Math Test also includes student-produced “grid-in” answers.

Finally, the ACT Science Test remains the biggest difference between the two tests, insofar as the SAT has no Science Test. However, the redesigned SAT incorporated a number of science-based passages into its reading sections, even though these passages are not as scientifically rigorous as the ACT Science Test. Having said that, the ACT Science Test remains fundamentally a READING test with charts and graphs, and not a math test. Students who are strong at reading typically do well on the ACT Science Test.

As a result of these considerations, I frequently give parents and students the following simple advice: if you are challenged at reading and good at math, take the SAT. Conversely, if you are good at reading and challenged at math, take the ACT.

Do some schools require both the SAT and the ACT? Should I prep for both?

The short answer to both questions is “absolutely not!” No schools require students to submit both SAT and ACT scores. All schools accept either the SAT or the ACT. While it may be helpful to take each test once to ascertain the best fit for you, it’s simply not worth the time and energy to prep for both tests. Pick one test and master it.

Should I prepare for the PSAT / PACT?

In general, prepping for the PSAT or PACT is an excellent idea. The PSAT is usually given during the Junior year of high school. If you achieve a top score on the PSAT, you can qualify for a National Merit Scholarship (the PACT does not qualify students for any scholarship programs). Although the PSAT and PACT are both only 2/3 as long as the SAT or ACT, they are essentially the same test, minus the Essay portion. Studying for the PSAT or PACT will give you early warning signs in areas where you need to improve, allowing you to work on these weak spots in plenty of time to boost your real SAT or ACT scores.

When should I take the SAT / ACT?

To achieve your best SAT or ACT score, start early. Many top-scoring students take the test during their Junior year in October, November, or December. If you perform strongly on one section, you can then focus your energy on sections where you need more work. This strategy allows you to use your prep time and energy more efficiently. After taking the test in the Fall, you can then take it again in the Spring, and once more during the Fall of your senior year if need be.

How many times should I take the SAT / ACT?

The short answer is that you should keep taking the SAT or ACT until you hit your target score. Taking the test three times is very common, while some students take it four times or more. But beware. Taking the test over and over again will not necessarily boost your performance. In fact, becoming obsessed with the test can actually lower your scores. Most students should plan to take the test two or three times, taking it a fourth time if necessary.

What is Super Scoring?

Most colleges take a student’s highest SAT scores in Reading/Writing and Math from multiple tests and add them together to form a composite Super Score. Many do the same with the ACT, averaging your top scores in English, Math, Reading, and Science to form a composite Super Score. For this reason, taking the SAT or ACT multiple times is generally a good idea. Historically, more schools have Super Scored the SAT than the ACT, although more schools are now starting to Super Score the ACT as well. When in doubt, always check with each college’s admissions office to ascertain their policy on SAT and ACT Super Scoring.

How many times should I take the SAT / ACT?

The short answer is that you should keep taking the SAT or ACT until you hit your target score. Taking the test three times is very common, while some students take it four times or more. But beware. Taking the test over and over again will not necessarily boost your performance. In fact, becoming obsessed with the test can actually lower your scores. Most students should plan to take the test two or three times, taking it a fourth time if necessary.

What is Score Choice?

Score Choice allows you to choose which SAT or ACT scores you send to colleges. Simply choose the scores from your best test dates and have them sent to the colleges of your choice. Bear in mind, however, that some colleges and scholarship programs require you to submit scores from all test dates.

Do some colleges not require SAT / ACT scores?

At last count, there are more than 900 colleges and universities that have a “test-optional” policy. However, even these colleges will accept standardized test scores as part of your application.  As a result, a high SAT or ACT score can still improve your chances of admission in many of these “test-optional” schools. Of course, most students do not apply only to test-optional schools, which means that earning the highest possible SAT or ACT score is essential for college-bound high school students.

Should I take the SAT Essay / ACT Writing Test?

Both the SAT Essay and the ACT Writing Test are beneficial; both writing tasks actually enhance reading comprehension skills as well as grammar and verbal communication skills. It’s a good idea to take the SAT Essay or ACT Writing Test if there is any chance you might apply to school that does require these portions of either test. Having said that, if you are absolutely certain that none of the schools to which you are applying require the essay or writing test, it may be a good idea to skip them and focus on boosting your scores in other areas of each test.

Does BTP offer a guarantee of score improvement?

Dr. Benthall designed this program for dedicated students who work hard until they achieve their desired scores. For that reason, we don’t offer a score guarantee. When you sign up for Benthall Test Prep, we provide you with your best chance at success with effective, time-tested, proprietary strategies taught by Dr. Benthall himself. Most students reach their target scores after only 6 weeks; see our testimonials page for just a few of our success stories. However, if you fall short of your goal, or if you want to take aim at an even higher score, simply contact us and tell us about your experience. After consultation and review, we’ll keep your account open and provide continual instruction until you achieve the scores you need.