Should Your Child Take the SAT or ACT?

SAT vs. ACTThis is one of the most common questions that we get at 2400 Expert. Many parents are confused as to whether colleges prefer one exam over the other. Traditionally, students on the East and West coasts have taken the SAT and students in the Midwest have taken the ACT.

But the truth is: there really is no difference. There is no difference in the level of difficulty between the exams. If your child does not prepare for either exam, he or she is almost certain to get scores that are equivalent on both.

Colleges don’t care which exam your child takes. There is a myth that certain colleges prefer the SAT and other colleges prefer the ACT. While this may have been true 20 years ago, this is not true today. These days, almost every college in the country will accept either exam.

I think you should only take one exam: either the SAT or the ACT. In high school, I never even looked at the ACT. I focused strictly on the SAT. I think that high school students who attempt to study for both the SAT and the ACT often spread themselves too thin. Instead of fully studying for one exam, most students just end up half-studying for two. Your child will understand one test much better if she focuses on one exam. Your child will also be less stressed if she only has to take one exam rather than two.

If your child is in October of his or her junior year or earlier, I highly recommend studying for the SAT for one particular reason: the PSAT.

The PSAT is the exam that can qualify your student as a National Merit Finalist if your child scores high enough. Your child will take the PSAT officially during October of her junior year. If your student already took the PSAT as a sophomore, she will have to retake it junior year in order to qualify for National Merit scholarships (sometimes worth $100,000+).

The PSAT is essentially an easier version of the SAT. It is half the length, the math is not as difficult, and there is no essay. The rest of the questions are pretty much the same as what you would encounter on the SAT. Therefore, if your child studies for the SAT,  she is essentially “overpreparing” for the PSAT. This is one reason we don’t have a separate PSAT course at 2400 Expert. Our SAT prep course has created hundreds of National Merit finalists.

Your child may also want to consider focusing on the SAT because it will help her on SAT Subject and AP exams. The College Board is the company that creates the SAT, PSAT, SAT Subject, and AP exams. Therefore, many of the math, reading, and writing strategies that your child learns in the 2400 Expert SAT prep course that are relevant to the SAT, will also be relevant to these other exams.


• If October of your child’s junior year has not passed yet, prepare for the SAT (because of the PSAT)
• If October of your child’s junior year has passed, prepare for either the SAT or ACT

Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert Test Preparation (formerly 2400 Expert), a #1 bestselling SAT prep author, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and winner of an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC's Shark Tank. He raised his own SAT score from average to perfect and teaches students his methods in an online SAT prep class.