Dear Teen Parenting Coach

Q: Should My Teen Take the ACT or the SAT?

Your teen would likely prefer to take neither college entrance exam, but chances are he’ll need to take at least one if he wants to continue his education after high school. Here’s how parents can help teens decide whether to prepare for and take the SAT or the ACT.

Q: “As we start to think about college, which test should my 16-year-old son take: the SAT or the ACT? He’s been diagnosed with hyperactive-type ADHD, and he gets extremely nervous taking any type of test.”

Every child is different, but my experience has been that kids with ADHD tend to prefer the ACT. It’s a slightly shorter test — which means less time for your child to get restless — and its questions are more straightforward than those in the SAT. Teens with ADHD may struggle to read in between the lines, and the ACT questions are structured like many of the test questions they’ve seen in school, which tends to make them more comfortable with it.

That being said, the only way to know for sure is to have your child take practice versions of each test, and see which format comes easiest to him. If there’s no clear winner in terms of structure, look at his scores; the tests are scored using different rubrics, but you can compare them using concordance charts, which can be found on Once he decides which one he prefers, have him prepare for just that test — prepping for both will be a waste of his energy, and is likely to overwhelm or confuse him.

[Free Resource: Teacher-Approved Study Apps]

Explore test accommodations, too — they’re unfortunately harder to get than in-school accommodations, but they’re certainly worth a shot, particularly for kids who have documented trouble with test-taking.

Ann Dolin, M.Ed., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel.

This advice came from “High School Success: A Strategic Transition for Teens Moving to Higher Grades,” an April 2018 ADDitude webinar lead by Ann Dolin, M.Ed., that is now available for free replay here.

Do you have a question for ADDitude’s Dear Teen Parenting Coach? Submit your question or challenge here.

The opinions and suggestions presented above are intended for your general knowledge only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your own or your child’s condition.