SAT or ACT: Which Test to Take, That’s the Question!

By: Jason Robinovitz | Last Updated: January 20, 2021

should I take the SAT or ACT? As the months slip by during which virtually everyone has been affected and shaped by the pandemic, it’s wise to cast a critical eye on the college admissions scene. Our focus in this post is the entrance testing. Some testing information has remained the same during this fraught period, while some aspects of these two tests have changed. Let’s take a look.

Before we enter the exams themselves, we’d like to reiterate that having a competitive score can give a student an advantage, even in the face of many colleges going temporarily test-optional (not the same as test-blind, where colleges ignore test scores). If you can safely take an ACT or SAT and produce scores that fall well within a college’s mid-50% range, you’ll have an advantage. Remember this: schools have been using these tests forever! Admissions teams feel comfortable incorporating the scores into their acceptance (or denial) decisions. During the pandemic, they’ve had to rely more heavily than usual on other application factors. Presenting strong test results can only help under current circumstances.

We emphasize that it makes not one bit of difference which test, SAT or ACT, you submit to colleges for admissions – or submit even for honors-program or scholarship consideration. One constant for as long as we can remember is that it’s important to choose and prepare effectively for the particular test on which you’re likely to do better. There are two paths to take to find out which is the better test for you.

First, you can pay for and take each test once, then compare your SAT and ACT scores to each other. In a previous blog, we've explained score reporting and a rational testing timetable, important elements of your personal testing plan.

A second, less onerous way to compare results in order to decide which test to focus on is to take a complimentary simulation of both tests, offered virtually through all Score At The Top Learning Centers. Our timed simulations provide the most realistic conditions you can get short of an actual national test-day administration. Use your simulation scores to decide which test to focus on! It’s a wise move.

Then there’s a third option: if you’re unable to take the real or simulated tests in order to decide which suits you best, you can still consider the distinguishing features of both, then ask yourself which test might prove better for you considering your academic strengths and weaknesses. While there’s significant overlap in SAT and ACT content, there are some significant differences to be aware of so you can ask yourself these questions and consider your own answers:

  • How do I handle test timing? Timing is more of an issue on the ACT because there are more questions to answer in about the same amount time that the SAT provides.
  • What’s my math aptitude? The SAT math is algebra-focused and includes a section that doesn’t permit the use of a calculator. That contrasts with the ACT’s more balanced range of math topics and permitted use of a calculator throughout.
  • Am I science oriented? The ACT has a separate science-reasoning section, whereas the SAT incorporates science-related questions throughout the test.
  • Am I a reader? SAT reading is at a higher level and has more inference questions than the ACT.

what do Florida students need to know about the Bright Futures Scholarship Program?For Florida students aiming for the Bright Futures Scholarship, you’ll need the following scores:

  • Florida Medallion Scholarship (75% of state-university tuition and fees):
    • SAT: 1210
    • ACT: 25
  • Florida Academic Scholarship (100% of state-university tuition and fees)
    • SAT: 1330
    • ACT: 29

Below are the mid-50% or average scores of students admitted to Florida’s twelve state universities for summer or fall 2020. To be competitive, your scores should be well inside these mid-50% ranges or higher – and because all our state universities superscore the tests and don’t care how many times you test, you can take a test multiple times to reach your goal score!


Mid 50%

Mid 50%


1060 s
1100 f

20.2 s
22.3 f


1030-1160 s
1110-1260 f

20-25 s

23-29 f


1020-1180 s
1080-1230 f

20-23 s
21-26 f


1100-1190 s
1240-1360 f

22-25 s
26-31 f

FL Poly

1280-1400 f

28-32 f


1190-1310 s
1290-1410 f

26-30 s
29-32 f


1150-1340 f

24-30 f


1170-1280 s
1250-1370 f

23-28 s
26-30 f


1260-1400 s
1340-1480 f

28-32 s
30-33 f


1070-1190 s
1200-1320 f

21-24 s
25-28 f


1160-1190 s
1270-1340 f

24-25 s
28-30 f


1140 s
1173 f

23 s
25 f

You can see SAT/ACT scores for accepted students at 200 popular colleges and universities.

We’ve laid out the test situation so that you can make a thoughtful decision about next steps. Our advice comes down to this: don’t make a testing decision without getting the most information you can. You can rely our 30+ years of experience to help you decide which is likely to be your better test and create your very own testing and prep calendar! Contact us about our “decision package.”

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