# SAT vs. ACT

I’m sure this has probably been discussed but I’m new to the game. My daughter is a rising Junior and we aren’t sure which test to focus on.

She took a mock test of each (no studying or prep at all, first sitting except for the spring PSAT) and got a 25 on the ACT and 1250 on the SAT. She’s more of a math/science person. Strongest score on ACT was science (24), and scores were lowest in English (ACT 14) and Reading/Writing (SAT 570), respectively.

Mostly considering UCs, CSUs and a few California privates. Thoughts?

How could she get a 25 C on the ACT if her high score was 24 and her low was 14? Like my kid’s sophomore score was a C 31 (E 35, M 28, R 31, S 28). The composite should be the average of the 4 scores.

I don’t think the science test on the ACT is a real science test. It’s more how fast can you analyze data. If her scores were actually 1250 and 25 those are pretty comparable scores. Which did she feel better about?

How did she get a 25 on the ACT if the highest score was 24 and the lowest was 14?

If she really did get a 25, the SAT is a little bit of a higher score (= 26 ACT I think). Supposedly the ACT is not a good choice for weak/slow readers.

1250 SAT currently concords to a high 26 ACT (based on the recently-released 2018 concordance). The SAT might be her test. Keep in mind that the ACT is much more time pressured so if she’s having difficulty completing a section that might not be her ideal test. However, if she likes ACT math/science compared to the SAT’s more “wordy” version, then she might look into ACT. Also, since she had the PSAT already, she was a bit more prepared for that SAT (the PSAT is only 15 min. less in timing and maybe missing a few of the most difficult questions, but otherwise very similar). A big question is how did she do on that initial PSAT relative to that “cold” SAT.

A lot depends on how she felt with each test. My kids kinda knew which test was more enjoyable and which more frustrating. It’s good that there’s a choice!

Thanks. Not sure how they got the composite score, but it sounds like it might actually be lower than what they said. IDK. It was a free mock test given at the school by a local tutor center, and in order to find out more I have to sit down with them. Maybe I’ll check it out.

The whole point of the mock tests are to help you decide which test you are more comfortable taking. ACT tests usually have shorter time but more straight-forward questions. SAT tests usually have more linked/tricky questions but longer time. A math/science person generally does better when taking the ACT considering that the ACT contains a science portion of which the SAT lacks. However, the ACT Science is not necessarily a science “knowledge” test, it is more about examining graphs and readings. I hope my suggestion helps.

The new SAT sprinkles “science-reasoning” questions among the various sections, is my understanding. It’s less concentrated than in a dedicated science section, but it’s there. What throws people about the new SAT is the “wordiness” of the math and science problems. Kids who don’t do as well with story problems may struggle a bit.

OP, if your DD took some condensed version of the mock exam, I have a word of caution wrt: predicted scores. My S took a condensed combined version of both SAT and ACT at his HS exact 2/3 weeks before the real tests (SAT/ACT). It was offered free by a national prep company. I told him the tests will most likely be on the difficult side as eventually the prep company need people to sign up for their classes. The reality was way worse than I thought. I can only say the predicted scores were so off from his real test results, I am questioning whether these mock tests should even be allowed to claim they predict your scores.

The most important thing for you to know about the California schools is that they will not superscore, they require th essay portions of both exams, and they want to see all test scores (not score choice). So, it is important that your child finds the right test and only takes it when she is ready, and has had the preparations she feels will help her get the scores she’s looking for. Again, schools aren’t necessarily interested in students who can do a “one an done”: growth and learning is important. However, it isn’t worth it if your daughter is going to try and only get a 25 when many of the CSUs are looking for low 30s. I hope that makes sense! Good luck on your journey!