SAT and ACT: What We Recommend for Sophomores

By: Jason Robinovitz | Last Updated: March 5, 2019

Sophomores taking the SAT & ACT

Calling all sophomores! If you’re entering your sophomore year, or you will become a junior soon, now is the best time to start planning for the ACT or SAT. You’ll likely need to take one to apply to your college of choice, and the sooner you make plans to do so, the better.

One of the first questions you’ll need to answer is whether should you take the ACT or SAT? There are some pretty big differences when comparing the ACT vs SAT, and some students are more equipped to perform well on one over the other.

Differences Between the SAT and ACT

Perhaps the biggest difference between SAT and ACT is that the ACT includes a science section, which often makes it a better choice for those who prefer math and science over reading and writing.

The SAT does include one math section but is more heavily geared toward reading comprehension. Similarly, the ACT does include reading and English sections, but these are balanced out by science reasoning and math sections. Both exams take roughly three hours to complete.

The other most noticeable difference between SAT and ACT is that the ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36 while the SAT is scored on a scale of 400 to 1600.

ACT VS SAT – Which Should You Take?

When evaluating the ACT vs SAT, it’s important to consider your testing style and strengths. Nowadays, it is common for students to take both, then choose the better-scoring test to submit to their colleges of choice.

If you are trying to decide if you should take the ACT or SAT, we highly recommend taking full-length practice tests for both exams. This will give you a good feel for each of the tests and help you determine which you feel more comfortable focusing on.

Looking to take a practice exam to compare the ACT vs SAT? Contact the Score At The Top team today to set up a simulation test.

Which Test Is Right for You?

The differences between SAT and ACT go beyond focusing on science and math or reading and writing. Deciding which one is the best fit for you depends a great deal upon your personal preferences and test-taking strategies.

The SAT might be the right choice for you if….

  • You are easily distracted by changes. The SAT has fewer, longer sections, which can be beneficial if the ACT’s shorter sections throw you off.
  • You haven’t memorized your math formulas. Everyday math formulas are provided for test takers on the SAT, but are not on the ACT.
  • You’re quick to make an educated guess. Most SAT questions take at least a minute to complete, which means good guessers can move more quickly through the test.
  • You like to take multiple breaks. The SAT offers three break times while the ACT only offers two.

On the other hand, you might prefer the ACT if…

  • You get anxious about tests. The ACT is more predictable than the SAT, which can help you prepare and feel more confident walking into the test.
  • You hate trick questions. The SAT often includes weird wording to try to trip people up, so if you like more straightforward questions, you might prefer the ACT.
  • You get hung up on long questions. The average ACT question takes less than a minute (49 seconds) to answer.

If you’re still feeling a little unsure when it comes to evaluating the ACT vs SAT, contact our team. We’re happy to discuss the ins and outs of both exams to help you pick the one that best suits your needs and strengths.

When to Take the SAT vs ACT?

Typically, we recommend taking both the SAT or ACT as early as possible. For many, this means signing up for the exam the summer after their sophomore year, in preparation for their junior year. The sooner you take it, the more time you will have to retest if necessary before submitting your scores to universities and colleges.

This leads us to the next question: after your first SAT (or ACT) experience, how many more times should you take that test? Typically, we recommend taking either exam at least two times to increase your chance of scoring well.

Remember: there’s superscoring, which means schools will use the best subscores from different sittings. Almost all colleges superscore the SAT and an increasing number superscore the ACT. By retaking the test, you give yourself a big leg up and the opportunity to superscore.

Our friend and colleague Jed Applerouth shared these data on student ACT score gains based on early, regular, and late starts to official testing for 4,502 students (he reports similar findings for the SAT):

First Official ACT Average Baseline Average Best Score Change
Early (before January of junior year) 25.1 29.1 4.0
Regular (before April of junior year) 24.8 28.5 3.7
Late (after April of junior year) 24.1 27.4 3.3

Applerouth admits selection bias in his group of students because they’re all “students who are actively seeking out test preparation, whose parents understand the benefits of preparation, the importance of the scores to admissions and scholarships, [and] who have the resources to support preparation.”

In other words, sophomores who begin ACT and SAT test prep and take their first exam the summer before junior year put themselves in a strong position. Evidence also shows that students who get professional test prep that includes timed and proctored simulated tests for the ACT and SAT, tend to show solid test-to-test gains.

Looking for Professional ACT and SAT Test Prep?

It doesn’t matter if you choose to take the ACT, the SAT, or both – as a sophomore, it’s time to start preparing. One of the best ways to do this is by working with an experienced tutor to prepare in advance.

Score At The Top boasts a team of ACT and SAT test prep instructors, trained to help you maximize your score and feel confident walking into your next exam. We’ll help you schedule a simulation exam, cover the right materials for the test, and learn the best test-taking strategies.

Ready to start preparing for the ACT or the SAT? Wondering if you should take the ACT or SAT? Contact us today. You can send us a message online or call one of our individual Florida tutoring locations.


* Many of the test administrations mentioned are those for which you can get back a copy of the test, your answers, and the correct answers (SAT calls it Question & Answer Service; ACT calls it Test Information Release) — and they are the best times, in our opinion, to take these tests so you can learn from your mistakes.

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Topics: College Admission ACT/SAT Test-Prep

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