SAT vs. the ACT A Tutors Perspective

SAT vs. the ACT A Tutors Perspective

If you are the parent of a college bound student in the 10th or 11th grade then I am sure you have heard conflicting opinions about whether your son or daughter should take the SAT or the ACT. To provide a path out of the confusion we have a guest blog by Anthony-James Green. CNN recently named Anthony: “The SAT tutor to the 1% and we are delighted that Anthony has written this guide for parents. For more information please visit:

A Parent’s Guide to the SAT vs. the ACT

Photo SAT vs ACT Every parent knows how important high test scores are for college admissions – a key reason why the test prep industry has warped into a multi-billion-dollar-a-year behemoth.  Yet, while parents are quick to invest in test prep for their children in the form of one-on-one tutoring, classroom courses, books, and online programs, few parents ask the most important question of all:

Which test should my child take in the first place? 

Different students are practically born to take the SAT, and do terribly on the ACT, and vice versa.  This is the most essential decision you need to make in the test prep process.

I’ve worked with nearly 400 students one-on-one, and in nearly every case, parents have already decided on one test or the other.  In most cases, parents have chosen the SAT because it’s “the more serious exam” – or because it’s a newer exam with which they’re not particularly familiar.  But colleges now take the ACT just as seriously as the SAT, and in some cases actually prefer high ACT scores to comparatively high SAT scores.

Both options should be on the table.  By ignoring either test, parents are pushing aside a route that could make all the difference in their children’s college admissions prospects.  But which test should your child take?  Fortunately, there’s an easy way to find out.

1. Grab the essential texts for both tests.

As soon as possible, parents should get a hold of official booklets for each test, which can be found on Amazon:

The College Board Official SAT Manual & The Real ACT


These books contain actual SATs and ACTs with real grading rubrics.  Whatever score your child gets on these tests is the actual score that he or she would receive on a real SAT or ACT.

2. Have your child look through a full example of each test. 

Before your child takes a diagnostic, he or she should gain an understanding of these tests’ formats, question-types, timing requirements, and pacing.  There’s no point in taking a diagnostic test “blind.”

Over the course of two weeks, your child should look through both books and try working on a full practice exam of each test.  Don’t worry about timing for now – your child should simply get used to the exams and the questions within.

3. Have your child take a full, timed, graded diagnostic test from each book.

After your child gains familiarity with these exams, he or she should then sit down during two consecutive weekends and take the actual tests.

Both books provide full, step-by-step grading instructions within, so your child’s scores won’t be a mystery – it’s very simple to calculate your child’s performance.

Just be sure to have your child take these tests in an accurate setting.  Make sure there’s total silence, a complete absence of distractions (no cell phones, computers, TV, radio, etc.), and make sure he or she sticks to the timing guidelines provided by each section.  Have your child take the tests in one go, after a proper night’s sleep, and with a proper meal in his or her stomach.

4. Compare your child’s scores using the concordance table.

The ACT publishes a “concordance table” that colleges use to compare SAT scores.  A perfect 36 on the ACT is a 2400 on the SAT, a 32 is a 2100, and so on and so forth (note that the scores on this table are out of 1600 – using only Critical Reading and Math – divide the SAT scores by 2, then multiply them by 3, to take Writing into account).

Use the following link to compare your scores:

5. Prepare for the test with the best overall score.

In most cases, students will get a much higher score on one test or the other.  In that case, pick the test with the better score.  You just saved yourself countless hours that your child would have spent prepping for the wrong exam.

If your child gets roughly equal scores, have him or her prep for the test that he or she liked best.  My students always have a preference – stick with the test that your child feels most comfortable with – it’ll be more motivating, and it’ll result in higher scores.

One more key note:

Prepping for one test also prepares you for the other.

Just like swimming gets you in better shape for running, and vice versa, prepping for the SAT improves your ACT performance (and vice versa).  If you want, you can always prep for one test, then compare overall scores at a later point and see where your child stands.  There’s no harm in trying, and you might find that, after some preparation, the winds have shifted in another direction.

This simple exercise will take about 15 hours in total, over the course of roughly a month.  By going through it, you’ll be giving your child the best possible chances of achieving high test scores, enhancing his or her skill set, giving him or her real-time test-taking experience, and setting your mind at ease!

I hope you found my guide helpful!  For more free test prep and college advice, and for a more in-depth look at the SAT vs. ACT process, you can visit my free test prep and college resource guides online at


Anthony-James Green is world-renowned SAT and ACT tutor with over 10,000 hours of experience teaching these tests, crafting curriculum, and training other tutors to teach their own students. He is also the founder of CNN recently named Anthony: “The SAT tutor to the 1%

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