SAT vs. ACT—what are the differences? A conversation with Bright Horizons College Coach

Megan Stubbendeck, CEO of ArborBridge, recently joined Elizabeth Heaton of Bright Horizons College Coach for a segment of "Getting In: A College Coach Conversation.” Beth and Megan discussed how to choose between the SAT and ACT.

Listen to Beth and Megan's full conversation here or read on for a sample of their discussion.

ELIZABETH HEATON ACT vs. SAT. For those of you who are going to test—and I know that this coming year, maybe many of you may not be going to test—but if you are going to test, and for those of you who are underclassmen for whom testing may become a more regular part of your life again, this is a big question. Which one do you choose? Do you just go with the SAT because that's what everyone in your school seems to take the SAT? Or do you do the reverse and just go with the ACT because that's what everyone around you does? I would encourage you not to go that way but to instead figure out which one is right for you.

And joining us today is Megan Stubbendeck, who is CEO of ArborBridge, also a former tutor and a curriculum leader, so really an expert on these choices. And I am going to put a small plug in for ArborBridge. We send lots of students to ArborBridge, they do great work with our students, and I am in fact a client, so my own son is working with a tutor from ArborBridge. He is choosing the SAT, but he did a diagnostic, so we knew which one was right. Welcome, Megan.

MEGAN STUBBENDECK Thanks so much, Beth, and thanks for having me. For everyone listening out there, it's great to be with you today.

BETH Absolutely. So why don't we start with the basics. So there are some general differences between the two tests. Walk us through those, please.

MEGAN One thing that's similar is that they both test content you know from school. And that is one thing you're going to find on either one. All that stuff you learned in Math class in 9th grade and 8th grade is going to come back and haunt you on both of these exams.

But like you said, Beth, there is a little bit of a difference, too, and I think the best way to think about it is both in pace and experience, what the feel of the test is like. And I think the first thing to keep in mind is that the pace of the SAT is a bit slower, where the ACT is a little faster. So what I mean by that is that you just have more time per question on the SAT than you do for the ACT. I do want to say, it's not to say that you're going to take the SAT and feel like you're on a spa day and everything is going to go really leisurely. It is still a fast-paced exam, but it's just slightly slower than the ACT would be.

BETH Got it.

MEGAN And the other big difference is that experience. It's sort of the content: what is it they're actually asking you to do on the test? And I think the big difference here is the SAT is all about analysis, really digging deep into a Reading passage or a Math question that's really wordy and sets up this convoluted experience of someone is pouring concrete in a patio and all of these things are happening and then you have to kind of find the Math inside there. Where the ACT gets right to the point. They just want you to read as fast as you can, regurgitate the information, and push through all of those Math equations as you're going. So those are really the two big differences for most students.

Listen to Megan and Beth’s full conversation here to learn more.


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About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

About Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

As one of the highest-performing tutors in ArborBridge’s history, Erin coaches tutors and develops tools and trainings to disrupt old habits and empower new strengths. With a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, Erin worked as a classroom teacher and student services director prior to joining ArborBridge in 2017. Her decade of success as an educator has prepared her to ensure that programs are tailored to individual students’ needs.

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