The SAT is changing in March of 2016, so the class of 2017 is in a tough spot: how do you deal with the change? One strategy is to just skip the SAT and instead do the ACT. Is this strategy brilliant or brilliantly boneheaded? Here we find out.
Early Studier? Take the Old SAT!
Last year, I wrote an in-depth analysis arguing that you should take the old SAT on or before January 2016. This advice still holds if you're studying early enough—say September 2015 or before.
But what if the old SAT is simply not an option? If you can't or don't want to start preparing for the test until October 2015 or later, read on...
Advantages of the ACT
If you're sure that the old SAT is out for you, then the advantages of the ACT versus the new SAT cannot be overstated for the class of 2017.
Studying the ACT Works Better
The current version of the ACT has been out for years now. This means there is a lot more institutional knowledge of what you must do to get a high score. Compared to the new SAT, the ACT is better understood by everyone: you have access to more practice tests, prep centers have more experience, publishers have come out with more training books—even the test makers have more experience in making a better test! Every test has a method, and can be studied. With the ACT, the study method is clear, while for the SAT, the study method is not.
But what if I like the SAT better?
You might like the old SAT better than the ACT, but did you know that the new SAT will much more resemble the ACT? The new SAT is making writing optional, reducing emphasis on vocab, and generally copying the ACT because the ACT is growing faster than the SAT. What this means is that liking the current SAT is not a strong reason to take the new SAT—it'll be different from the SAT you know now. Most of the guides you find online comparing the SAT to ACT use the old SAT as the baseline—you cannot conclude from these guides that you'll like the new SAT better!
Aren't SAT's more "legit" and "standard" than the ACT?
Those of us who grew up on the coasts (me included, since I grew up in the NYC area) have heard about the SAT for decades. It may seem to you that the SAT is the standard test to take because you hear it a lot from teachers or classmates. But these days, more people take the ACT than the SAT. The ACT overtook the SAT as the USA college test of choice years ago. Almost all colleges that take the SAT also take the ACT and treat them equally . Besides psychological familiarity to some people, the ACT is every bit as good, legit, and standard as the SAT.
Who are the ACTs most advantageous for?
Like I mentioned before, if you're in the class of 2017, and starting to study September 2015 or before, do the old SAT (unless you like the ACT to begin with). Thus, the ACT strategy is most beneficial for students studying starting around October, and going all the way through the summer of 2016. If you're not studying until fall of 2016 (senior fall) the new SAT could work for you as there will be months of materials out—but still not as much as the ACT. In short: if you're in the class of 2017 and won't start to study until October 2016 or later, seriously consider the advantages of the ACT!
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Fred is co-founder of PrepScholar. He scored a perfect score on the SAT and is passionate about sharing information with aspiring students. Fred graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor's in Mathematics and a PhD in Economics.