Now that the SAT has undergone a redesign, it looks more like the ACT than ever before. It’s always been a good idea to practice and prepare for both tests, but now that’s especially true. Here, I’ll cover all the reasons it makes sense to prep for both the SAT and ACT.

The SAT Reading Passages Are Harder Than the ACT Reading Passages

I’m working with a student now whose principal focus is the ACT. However, we also worked together to prepare him for the PSAT. Whereas before, on the ACT, he’d score somewhere near a 28 out of 36, after working Reading together for both the ACT and then the new SAT, his ACT Reading score shot up to a 35 out of 36. “I think it was because the passages and questions on the SAT were much harder, a lot more tricky,” he said. “It made the ACT Reading passages seem easy by comparison.” We placed special emphasis on reading and answering questions on difficult passages written in the 19th century. If you’re looking to take your ACT Reading score from good to great, consider working SAT Reading passages to strengthen your faculties of reading and critical analysis.

The SAT and ACT Writing Sections Are Extremely Similar

The redesigned SAT Writing section now looks almost exactly like the ACT English section. Gone are the isolated sentences and in their place are passages that students must line-edit. Both test the same grammar rules, and both emphasize sentence order and inserting and deleting relevant and irrevelant information. I always tell my students that on both the SAT and ACT, the grammar rules are memorizable and lead to quick pay-offs. The quickest way to gain points on either test, if you’re willing to work for them, is to learn and drill the grammar rules that both exams hold you accountable for.

The ACT Math Section Has No Formula Chart

It’s critical that students familiarize themselves with the formulas and concepts necessary to succeed on both the SAT and ACT. Although the SAT provides students with a formula chart, it’s by no means comprehensive. Practicing for the ACT requires that you not only learn formulas and math concepts, but also recognize when to apply them. The SAT has a reputation for being more “tricky,” while the ACT is reported to test math concepts in a comparatively more straightforward way. By practicing both SAT and ACT math, students will have a greater grasp of math fundamentals as well as a better intuitive sense of how to tackle tricky and difficult math questions.

You May Discover You Do Vastly Better on One or the Other

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that some students simply do significantly better on one test as opposed to the other. If you’ve practiced a bit for both and have taken practice tests–or, better yet, the real thing–use that data to your advantage. Is your percentile score notably higher on one test or the other? That may be a clue as to which test to continue the test-prep process with.

Should You Take Both the SAT and ACT?

At the end of the day, most students end up picking a test and sticking with it. But until your senior year, it can actually be very valuable to cross-train on both the SAT and ACT. I’ve seen it work wonders for some of my students, and the same may be true for you!

Remember, though, as smart as it can be to practice for both the SAT and ACT if you’ve got the time to do so, if you’re a senior who’s starting the test prep process late, time is your most important resource. It may be wise to pick a test and focus all your efforts on that test. For everyone else, it makes sense to cross-train on both the SAT and ACT.

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