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I studied for the SAT for years; my parents piled on the practice books right after my middle school graduation. I managed to get my score decently high and was quite satisfied with my performance, until one day I randomly signed up for the ACT for fun just to see how I would do (I know what you’re thinking: “fun” and “ACT” do not belong in the same sentence). A $5 used practice book from Amazon and one week of studying produced some surprising results: my ACT score absolutely blew my SAT score out of the water (proportionally). Despite the overloaded preparation for the SAT, somehow my brain just clicked with the ACT.

Taking both the SAT and the ACT is a great way to see which test “works” for your brain and your way of thinking better. If you’re in a time crunch, you may have to study for both at the same time, but don’t fret! There are a few similarities and differences to keep in mind when preparing.

Pro: Some Similar Questions

Once 2016 rolls around, both the SAT and ACT will have optional essays. Thankfully, both of them tend to have similar themes. Sharpening your writing skills will help on both tests, plus you can most likely use the same examples for both essays. Look for historical examples, works of fiction (books, movies, etc), personal anecdotes, or currents events that can serve as support for your essays.

In addition, both the SAT and ACT have similar Writing/Reading sections and passages. As long as you study the overall English grammar rules, you should be ready to ace both tests.

Con: Different Questions

The biggest difference between the SAT and ACT is the science section (or lack thereof). This is simply one you can’t avoid. If your ACT test date is after your SAT test, then save the science studying until afterwards to save time. In addition, the SAT and ACT cover mostly the same mathematics materials, but there are some slight discrepancies. The SAT has “arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability” and more, with multiple-choice questions and 10 grid-ins. The ACT has “pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry” and more, with only multiple-choice questions.

Pro: Test-taking Habits

There is definitely a test-taking “zone” that you build up during standardized test season. Taking multiple tests could get your body used to those long hours of testing and build up your brain’s endurance. While too many test could stress you out (see the following paragraph), just the right amount could help get you into the flow of things.

Con: Too Much to Handle

Whoops, you accidentally brought your SAT ticket to the ACT. Whoops, you accidentally mixed up the test centers and drove to the wrong one. Whoops, you’re so used to the 60-minute math section in the ACT that you got way too comfortable and accidentally ran out of time in the SAT’s 25-minute section.

No matter the scenario, a lot can go wrong when you’re juggling too much. While it’s possible to get through this process stress-free, it’ll require much more planning and organization. Keep your ducks in a row and you will survive!

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