Like many choices in homeschooling, the choice of which college admissions test to take is, for the most part, up to you. You have the advantage in these tests, because you get to choose whichever test makes your child look like a genius.
Each high school testing location chooses whether to provide the SAT or the ACT to their students. In general, the states on the coasts tend to give the SAT, and the states in the center of the country tend to give the ACT. A third of students typically do better on the SAT, about a third will do better on the ACT, and for the remaining third, it doesn’t matter which one they take.
Studies claim that boys do better on the SAT and girls do better on the ACT, but statistics are not always right! I’ve also heard that science lovers might do better on the ACT, and poor writers might do better on the ACT without the essay (although I don’t recommend that). What’s MOST important is to decide which test will be best for YOUR student.
Taking a sample ACT and SAT is the single best way to decide which one your child will score the highest on. While the sample test does take 3-4 hours (and it’s a real pain, I know!), it can mean THOUSANDS of dollars in scholarship money, so it’s worth it.
The SAT measures reading, writing, and math. It includes an optional essay, which is 50 minutes, timed, and handwritten in pencil. The ACT is similar, because it also covers reading, writing, math, and an optional essay. However, the ACT also has a section on science reasoning. I recommend that your child take the optional essay for either test.
Keep in mind that some colleges may have a preference for one test over the other. Learn about both tests, as well as the requirements of the colleges you’re interested in, and then choose the one that is best for your child.
Please note: This post was originally published in January, 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.