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If your desired college gives you a choice between the SAT and the ACT for your application, you’ll want to choose the test likeliest to give you the highest score. That requires understanding the key differences between the two exams.

First, ACT questions are more direct, while the SAT puts more emphasis on critical-thinking skills. For example, the SAT’s math section is more likely to include word problems, and its reading section will evaluate reading comprehension. The ACT focuses more on grammar-related questions.

The SAT is more vocabulary driven.

Only the ACT has a science portion. This is perhaps the biggest contrast between the two exams. You’ll evaluate tables and graphs, interpret an experiment’s outcome, and develop a hypothesis.

While both tests quiz you on arithmetic, algebra and geometry, the ACT also asks four basic trigonometry questions.

The ACT writing test is optional. The SAT’s writing segment is built into the overall score. Results from the ACT’s written portion, if you choose to take it, appear separately from the composite score.

And the SAT has 10 distinct sections, while the ACT has four larger segments. If you prefer to stay in one groove for a longer stretch, the ACT is a better choice. If you like frequent changes of subject matter, the SAT might be for you.

You can take both tests, and the costs are similar. But many students achieve better results by focusing on one. Practice tests are available to help you decide.

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