One of the most common questions we get regarding college admissions is whether taking the Digital SAT or ACT is better. While it would be nice to give you a direct answer, it is really not that simple. Today, we will compare the two testing systems and help you determine which one is better for you.

Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

Why Is Choosing Between the Digital SAT vs ACT More Complicated?

Before the SAT went digital, choosing between the SAT and ACT was a totally different ballgame. Both were paper and pencil exams and while they tested students over different subjects and content, the exam experience was pretty similar. 

With the digital SAT, that’s all changing. The DSAT has fewer sections and shorter questions, and it’s taken digitally–as the name implies! Since the SAT and ACT were already different, the shift to a shorter, digital exam will make the differences between the ACT and digital SAT even more important for test takers. 

ACT vs Digital SAT: What Are the Main Differences?

Both the DSAT and ACT assess students’ skills and knowledge to gauge how ready they are for college or their future careers. They also include some similar skills testing, like a Reading section that asks students to answer multiple-choice questions based on a passage.

However, there are big differences in exam length, structure, and format. For instance: how long is the ACT exam compared to the DSAT? ACT has over twice as many questions as the DSAT, more sections covering more subjects, and lasts nearly 45 minutes longer. 

The DSAT and ACT use different methods to assess your skills as well. The DSAT is an adaptive exam, which means the difficulty of each student’s test changes between sections based on their performance. 

The ACT doesn’t adapt questions based on student’s performance during the exam since questions are pre-printed in the test booklet. The entire ACT is also taken and submitted entirely on paper, whereas the DSAT is taken and submitted on a laptop or tablet through a digital testing app called Bluebook. 

4 Reasons Why You Might Prefer the ACT

For some students, the ACT’s format and additional sections can mean the difference between a good and a great ACT score. Here’s why: 

There Are More Materials and Strategies to Practice With

The ACT has been around for over 60 years and hasn’t undergone a major change since the Reading section replaced the Social Studies section more than 30 years ago. That means that test prep companies and educators have had a lot of time to develop materials and strategies that work. Since the DSAT is brand new, there aren’t as many reliable sources available to use! 

If you’re hoping to pick from a huge repository of fully vetted test prep materials, the ACT may be the exam for you. 

There Are More Topics To Show Your Skills

The DSAT has two sections: Reading and Writing and Math. The ACT, on the other hand, has four sections, consisting of Reading, English, Math, and Science. When you add in the optional essay, which the DSAT doesn’t have, the ACT includes a total of five sections covering a range of educational topics

The Format Never Changes  

When it comes to the difficulty level of the ACT, you pretty much know what to expect ahead of exam time. In general, you can expect to encounter easier questions earlier in each ACT section, and harder questions appear later. And since all the questions are printed in your booklet ahead of time, you don’t have to worry about the test getting harder halfway through because of your performance like you would on an adaptive, digital exam! 

It’s Given in a Paper Booklet

For some students, screens can be distracting, or they can cause more eye strain and fatigue.

So it’s good to assume that you’ll have to take the DSAT on a screen, even if you qualify for testing accommodations. If testing in a digital format is distracting, stressful, or uncomfortable, the ACT may be a better fit for you

4 Reasons Why You Might Prefer the DSAT

The DSAT is a shorter digital exam, and for many students, those are perks! Here’s why the DSAT may be a good fit for you: 

The Test Is Shorter

At only 2 hours and 14 minutes total, the DSAT is much shorter than the ACT, which clocks in at nearly 3 hours in length. Because of its shorter run time, the DSAT also includes fewer questions. 

The DSAT is designed to give students more time to answer each question and reduce stress during the exam. That’s why the DSAT may be a great fit for students who need more time to answer each question. 

The Content Is More Straightforward

The DSAT still measures the core skills and knowledge that students need to be college-ready, but with content and questions that are more concise and straightforward

For example, on the Reading and Writing section, reading passages are shorter, and students only answer one question per passage. In the Math section, students can also use a calculator on both modules

It’s a Digital Format

From start to finish, the DSAT is downloaded, administered, taken, and submitted using a computer or tablet. To take the exam digitally, students will download a testing app called Bluebook to their digital device. Bluebook will contain everything that students need to take the test! 

There Are More Convenient Exam Features

When students take the DSAT, several crucial test-taking tools will be built right into Bluebook. Students will have access to a digital countdown clock, calculator, annotation tool, math formula reference sheet, and a question menu that keeps track of skipped questions. With these tools built into the Bluebook app, students won’t have to worry about bringing them to the exam separately. 

Should I prep for both tests?

Generally, students should focus on one test or the other unless the school or program a student is applying to requires it. If the student wants to know which test best suits them and would like to do the test prep accordingly. There are a couple of options he can do:

  1. A student can take full-length SAT and ACT Practice tests. They can use online tools to grade their bubble sheet like Socrato and get the diagnostic report.
  2. You can also take the combined SAT vs. ACT which will help to find which test will be better for you and the basis of your score and subject analysis.  Socrato also provides this combined test you can take online or paper test.