Should My Child Take the SAT, ACT or Both?


Guest post by Alex Hollis – CEO of TestSoup. 

Taking the SAT on March 8th or the ACT on February 8th? Prepare for the SAT, ACT or both with TestSoup’s Digital Flashcards! 50% off until 1/13/2014. See below for more details.

It was a cool fall morning in Southern New Hampshire the day I took my SAT’s. I entered the testing center with that unpleasant “I know the next three hours will determine the rest of my life” feeling. You know, that feeling that your stomach is full of led pellets and your head is full of the bizarre chaos of a Tom Waits song.

Shortly after entering the testing center a woman in the front of the crowd was explaining to me and the rest of the horde of nervous teens that we would now have to split up into two groups: those taking the SAT and those taking the SAT II. That was when a frustrated male voice called out from the back, “What!? There’s two of ‘em!?”

As funny as it was to hear that, the kid touched upon a pretty good point: when it comes to applying to college, the amount of test-taking options is enough to make your head spin. There is the SAT, a multitude of SAT II’s, ACT, ACT with Writing, the TOEFEL if English is not your first language…Selecting the right test to take is just one more complicated tidbit in the stressful debacle that is applying to college.

So, what test is right for your teen? In most cases, you will be deciding on either the SAT or ACT with Writing or both. Here are three tips to help point you in the right direction:

1) Does Your Teen Have Superior Critical Thinking Skills?

If so, then your teen may want to leverage those skills by taking the ACT. Don’t get me wrong, the SAT requires critical thinking skills, but the ACT’s science section is built entirely around scientific reasoning and critical thinking. If your child is interested in majoring in a science and is a good critical thinker, it’s a good idea to have them take the ACT.

2) How Much Math Has Your Teen Taken?

The SAT’s math section is challenging, but is based more around application and quantitative comparison. There is some geometry and a bit of algebra, but no trigonometry.

The ACT is more topic-based, and will test your knowledge of fundamental rules in geometry algebra, and trigonometry. Although the trigonometry is elementary, you still should take a trig/ pre-calculus course by the time you take the ACT is you want a decent shot at answering these questions confidently.

3) Have Your Teen Ask His/Her Dream School

The best thing you can do is have your teen call the schools he/she wants to apply to and straight up ask them which test they prefer. It’s also a good way to ask whether they want you to include writing scores. If you get the scoop on which test your dream school prefers, you can focus on preparing for that test as best you can.

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Bobby Touran is the founder and CEO of ApplyKit. ApplyKit helps students manage their entire college application process and also provides key resources to help them excel every step of the way.