Let’s dispel a few myths. Myth number one: Colleges that accept the SAT or ACT prefer one over the other. This one is easy--there is no favorite. Really. They don’t care. Students can take either a practice or a real version of both tests and find out which they like better or which yields higher scores (you can Google “SAT to ACT conversion scale” to find out how the scores compare to each other).
Myth number two: The ACT is easier. This is a little less clear-cut. What constitutes a “good score” for the SAT or ACT is determined on a curve based on how well you do in comparison to your peers. While it’s certainly true that some students will do better on either the SAT or ACT, the discrepancy is rarely very large; it is extremely unlikely that a student will score in the 99th percentile on one but only the 50th percentile on the other.
No one should feel obligated to take both tests, however. Certainly students should just focus on one if they feel they don’t have enough steam for both--there’s no sense in getting burned out and doing poorly on two tests when you can save your energy and do well on one. After all, test preparation--not to mention the test itself--can be a debilitating process in some cases.
Of course, there are always exceptions to any recommendations. There’s no substitute for doing the research by calling college admissions offices directly. Today, a mom told me that her son was focusing on the ACT, even though he was scoring similarly on the SAT. Her rationale made sense: While Duke University required the SAT plus 2 SAT Subject Tests, Duke would waive the SAT Subject Test requirement for students who took the ACT. In the end, it’s a choice that should be made considering all of the factors: a student’s motivation, college requirements, score discrepancies, etc.