Should You Take the ACT or SAT or Both?

The UCs accept both ACT with Writing and SAT with Essay scores. Keep in mind that the UCs require the optional writing for the ACT and the optional essay for the SAT. The UC campuses will only consider your top score from one test date (no “superscore”) and they don’t really care how many times you take the tests (although most private colleges frown upon excessive test taking, so plan accordingly). If you took both the ACT and SAT, the UCs compare the scores and use the highest one for admission evaluation.

Personally, I do NOT recommend taking both tests just because every hour you spend preparing for a test is time you could be spending doing something else (like adding an AP class to your schedule). Given that time invested is NOT always directly proportional to the test score, you must carefully weigh the trade-off before committing your time.

How do you decide which test to take? Review the differences between the tests below to help you decide whether the ACT or SAT is best for you. Wondering whether you need to take the SAT Subject Tests? While the UCs no longer require them, each UC campus has its own SAT Subject Test Recommendations that you should follow. You may also use SAT Subject Tests to clear a-g subjects; see the a-g subject requirements for details.

How are the ACT and SAT Different?

Here are some resources to help you determine which test will be the best fit for your test-taking style.

Find a ACT/SAT comparison chart, complete with easy-to-read graphs and summaries, from Applerouth. Note that the chart excludes the optional writing/essay section of the tests; the ACT writing adds another 40 minutes to the test time and the SAT essay adds another 50 minutes to the test time.

Princeton Review has a concise, text-based comparison of the ACT and SAT containing all of the information you need, including the optional writing/essay section of the tests.

Test Prep Resources

Check my Testing Requirements for the UCs page for the UC policies on SAT/ACT test scores and submission deadlines, and find Free and Low Cost Test Prep Resources or discounts on Test Prep Courses (including discounts for Prep Expert and no obligation 4 free hours of private tutoring from Revolution Prep)!


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