One of the most frequent things parents bring up to me is the idea that the ACT is easier than the SAT. From my personal experience teaching several thousand students over the past decade is that for the mass majority of students I have not seen huge differences in scores when comparing a student’s score between the two tests. If someone does poorly on the SAT, then they will not magically do better on the ACT, unless the student just had a bad test experience one day and then a better experience the next. If a student needs prep for the SAT, then chances are they need to prep for the ACT. There are no shortcuts.
A recent example I’ve seen is a student who needed to get just under a 1200 on his SAT or a 26 on his ACT to qualify for scholarships He was around 1050 on his SAT and a 20 on his ACT. For direct comparison sake, he actually was a little bit better on his SAT. After a little bit of prep(about once a week for 5 or 6 weeks) his SAT score went up about 100 points and his ACT was 22 and 23 which was about equal to his SAT increase. After this, he got serious, and he did a little bit of prep every day for 3 weeks he raised his score to a 30 on his ACT. He did not keep working towards his SAT, but chances are he would see a similar score increase on his SAT as well.
The lesson in all of this is that no matter what test you pick, most people will need to do some kind of prep to improve. My general recommendation for a student to fix a score deficit on either the SAT or ACT is to pick one of the tests to take and focus on improving that one. SAT’s and ACT’s are like any other standardized test where students need to practice to do better. AP students spend an entire year taking practice AP exams specifically for the purpose of performing well on their AP exams. The SAT or ACT is no different.