The old wisdom used to be that you should register to take each test once then compare your scores on focus on that test. In some ways, the old wisdom still works except now you don’t have to wait until an official test date. Thanks to the internet, you can get free copies of official tests from College Board and ACT to make a comparison.

Take the tests on your own

Each test is going to take about 3 ½ hours to complete with breaks and scoring, and you want to take the practice tests at about the same time, say 2 consecutive weekends, in about the same conditions to get a good result.

I recommend using Practice Test 7 from College Board and the official practice test from ACT. Both of these are freely available on their websites. Take them under the prescribed time conditions. If you qualify for extended time on the tests, give yourself the extended time. Check your answers and calculate your scale scores for each.

Compare your scores

We created this chart to determine if one test favors a student over another.

Calculate where your two scores meet. If it lands in the blue are majority of the students we work with land in the dark blue area in the middle. In that case, we typically recommend students focus on the SAT.

A quick aside on the reason for that recommendation. In the simplest of comparisons, the SAT gives students a total of 180 minutes to complete a total of 154 questions. The ACT gives students 175 minutes to complete 215 questions. The ACT is 5 fewer minutes to complete 60 more questions. In preparing for the ACT, students have to learn to manage the pace as well as learn the material. For the SAT, students can focus more on learning the material.

Spending some time figuring out the right test for you lets you focus your limited preparation time on one test.

Need a customized prep plan? Check out our test prep planning app. Answer a few critical questions and get a test prep plan that is right for you.