If you have a child in high school, you are probably wondering which college entrance exam is better, the ACT or SAT? Even though the number of “test optional” colleges is rising, most college-bound high school students take at least one or both the ACT and SAT.

There are rumors that the ACT is kinder or easier, but in practice both tests are equally challenging. Deciding which test best fits your child takes a little time and two weekends. Have your child take a timed, practice version of each test without preparing. Take the SAT one weekend and the ACT on another. There are several online versions of each test and it’s important to select a practice test you can grade or submit for free grading.

After the practice tests, look at your child’s scores. Did he or she naturally perform better or prefer one of the tests? Discuss what your child liked about each test and what was challenging. This should give you a strong sense of where your child should put his or her time and energy into preparing. This is really the best way to choose, but if your child has taken both tests and you are still unsure, consider these factors:

  • Is your child a fast reader? The ACT is a slightly faster paced exam. The SAT allows for an extra 10-20 seconds per question overall.
  • Is your child likely to memorize and apply math formulas correctly? The SAT provides formulae in the math section, the ACT does not. But if your child preferred Geometry, there’s more Geometry in the ACT. The ACT also has math questions related to trigonometry and logarithms.
  • Does your child prefer using a calculator? The SAT has a no calculator section which can cause anxiety in some students.
  • If your child needs accommodations, you may have your decision made for you. Both tests are offered with accommodations, but qualifying for accommodations differs and one test may be more suited to your child’s learning needs than the other.

If you are still stuck, consider creating a game plan for taking both tests – preparing for and taking them one at a time. This requires about 18 months so it’s not for everyone. Most teens need four-to-six months to prepare and another two-to-three months to officially take the exam twice.

There are lots of review books and group classes. But the most efficient way to boost test scores is by working with a skilled, one-on-one test prep tutor who can hone in on the areas where your child needs help the most. Franklin has highly qualified test prep tutors with expertise in ISEE, SSAT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and ACT. Learn more about our Test Prep tutoring programs here. Ultimately, the test is only one of many parts of a college application. Neither fully encapsulates a child’s current abilities or future potential. No matter which test your child chooses, he or she will have a full and fulfilling life after high school.


Rachel Fisher, MA
Executive Director


Franklin offers specialized academic tutoring, home school, test preparation, and educational therapy in Los Angeles and Orange County.  Contact us for more info!