The upside of two potential tests is that the choice increases the number of venues to score higher. The downside is that extending preparation to both tests can dilute the efforts in each. However, many of the skill sets, in terms of how to think and behave, can transfer from one test to the other. One considerate approach is to take a practice test (or an abridged test) of both an SAT and an ACT and determine how a student scored, what strengths and issues in thinking became apparent, and what kind of comfort level did a student feel. Attention should also be given to not just how a student scored, but what will be required to get a better score. Further considerations can simply be logistical: schedules, available time and effort level, and other stresses of life. Periodically revisiting a test that may have seemed the lesser of the two may provide surprisingly beneficial results at some later point. In short, there is no clear answer as each individual thinks, learns and reacts differently to changing in order to become more aligned with each tests’ expectations.
The basic difference between the workings of the SAT and ACT is that the SAT presents itself with questions that are more concerned with critical thinking skills. The SAT is far more aligned to test reasoning ability than curriculum. For example, there are more complex math questions using basic curriculum than simpler questions with higher curriculum. The SAT’s reading passages require “extended” reasoning (meaning one has to read inferences and interpret the passage rather than recall concrete details and recognize plot). On the other hand, the ACT is a more content-based test, and more straightforward, but there is a need to move at a faster pace than the SAT, faster than most students feel comfortable going.