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SAT vs ACT. Which scores should I send to colleges?

Posted by Alyssa Pascarella on Nov 9, 2017 3:21:00 PM

Did you take the SAT or ACT? Maybe you took both tests because you weren't sure which one was the right one for you or the colleges you were applying to had different requirements. Or maybe you only took one because you felt that you would perform better on that test. Regardless, if you took one test or both and you applied to a "test optional" school or to a school that accepts either type of test scores,  you're probably battling with one question: "should I send in my scores or not?" Not to worry because you have a few different routes that you can pursue. We want you to get into your dream school, so take our advice if it feels right for you. 

The SAT and ACT test a lot of the same content. But two of the major differences are that the ACT has a science section and the SAT has a math section that doesn't allow you to use a calculator. So, if you intend on being a biology or chemistry major, it may make sense to send in your ACT scores because you got tested in science (assuming you did well!). On the other hand, if you plan to go into mathematics related major, sending in your SAT scores might be the right choice for you.


sat vs act test scores

If you have taken both tests and aren't pursuing a math or science related major, which test scores you choose to send may be a little less obvious. Let's start here... do you know how to compare your scores from the SAT and ACT? The SAT is scored out of 1600 and the ACT is scored out of 34, so it's not easy to tell which one you scored highest on at first glance. Use this conversion tool to help you compare you scores side by side. This will ultimately show you if you performed better on one test than the other.

Option #1 - Don't send in any of your scores

More and more schools are becoming "test optional" schools. Ahh, cue a sigh of relief. "Test optional" means that you are not required to submit your test scores with your application if you don't want to. A good rule of thumb is that if you think your scores will help your chances of getting in or could help you obtain a merit scholarship (check with each school for test score cutoffs), then send them.

However, if you don't think you can qualify for merit aid based on your scores, your results could still help you qualify for admission. Check on the schools website to see what the average, 25th percentile, and 75th percentile test scores are of accepted students, gauge where you fall on the spectrum. If you think your scores do not reflect your academic ability and ability to succeed at your desired school, then keep them to yourself. Some students just don't test well and that's OK! There are other ways to impress the admissions committee.

Option #2 - Send in the test with the better score

Most students tend to choose this option. If you choose to send in your test scores or are required to, submit the scores from the exam that you scored higher on. If your school requires you to submit solely SAT or ACT scores then you should follow the schools application instructions. But if your schools allow students to choose which test scores they would like to submit the answer is simple: send in the best score based on the conversion chart above.

Option #3 - Send in both of your test scores

If you clearly did better on one test than another, you don't want to send in both scores and have the admissions counselor wondering if you got your better score by chance. Don't give them the wrong message by sending in scores that are on totally different ends of the spectrum. Save yourself the risk and only send in the highest test score in this case. On another note, very few schools require both test scores so it is unlikely this will be necessary for you to do. But if it is, you may want to check in with your guidance counselor further instruction. 

Have more questions about college test scores or applying to college? We are here for you. Get free one-on-one advice from one of our college planning counselors.

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Topics: SAT & ACT