SAT vs ACT: Key Differences | Which one should you take?

What is ACT?

ACT is a standardized exam that tests students’ knowledge in English, math, science, and reading. This test’s main purpose is to measure student’s performance for taking admission to their desired college. ACT test also includes an optional direct writing test. The full form of ACT is American College Testing.

What is SAT?

SAT test is an extremely important test used by colleges and universities across the US in determining college admissions and scholarships of students. SAT test includes sections like evidence-Based Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.

In this tutorial, you will learn:

What are the benefits of an ACT prep course?

Here are the important benefits of the ACT prep course:

  • Offers supervised studying that enables you to focus on weaker areas.
  • Increases confidence about ACT exam.
  • Students can study efficiently.
  • It helps you to solve math questions without a calculator.
  • You can easily apply for a scholarship after getting a good score on the exam.

What are the benefits of an SAT prep course?

Here are the important benefits of SAT prep course:

  • The practice questions for SAT preparation are well designed to provide students with a world-class learning experience.
  • It helps you to maximize your score through a video explanation plug and play study schedule.
  • SAT courses provide a score analysis after the completion of each test.
  • It allows you to review your questions and learn to improve them.

What is covered in the ACT test?

The ACT covers multiple-choice question tests for 1) English, 2) Math, 3) Reading, and 4) Science and one optional writing test.

  • English: It is a 25-minute test that contains 75 questions. This test measures your understanding of English conversions, writing skills, and knowledge of the language.
  • Math: It is a 60-minute test having 60 questions. This test is designed to assess mathematical skills.
  • Reading: It is a 35-minute test that contains 40 questions. It measures your reading comprehension.
  • Science: This test has 40 questions that you need to complete in 35 minutes. It measures the interpretation, analysis, reasoning, evaluation, and problem-solving skills.
  • Writing: It is an optional 40-minute exam that measures your skill of writing an essay. This test is designed to evaluate students’ ability to measure the judgmental skill for making a specific decision.

What is covered in the SAT test?

The basic SAT exam includes various sections like reading, mathematics, writing, and language. This test begins with reading and ends with an optional essay.

  • Reading: The reading section includes a comprehension that contains specific words and sentences. You need to understand them and replace them with synonyms.
  • Language: SAT language and writing sections are based on passages. It contains five pages with multiple-choice questions.
  • Maths: The mathematics section is generally divided into two parts. In the first one, you cannot use a calculator, and in the second part, it is allowed.

Difference between ACT vs. SAT

Here is the SAT vs ACT comparison:

Parameter ACT SAT
Length 3 hours, 35 mins (including optional 40-minute essay) 3 hours, 50 mins (including optional 50-minute essay)
Type of Test ACT is a computer-based test, so you can only solve questions on a screen. SAT is a paper-pencil test. You can write on the question paper.
Scoring pattern: • English 45 mins
• Math: 60 mins
• Reading 35 mins
• Science 35 mins
• Writing (optional): 40 mins
• Reading 65 minsWriting and language: 35 minsMath (no calculator): 25 minsMath (calculator): 55 minsEssay (optional): 50 mins
Suited for The ACT is better for people who tend to be lucky guessers. The SAT is better for people whose strategy is to skip the ones they don’t know and spend time on the questions they feel confident about.
Subjects • Math
• Essay
• Reading
• Science
• Reading
• Math
• Science
• Optional essay
Component 5 components: English, maths, reading, writing, science. 3 components: Critical reading, maths, writing.
What if measures? Measures what students learn at school. Helps to measure the student’s reasoning and verbal abilities.
Penalty No penalty. ¼ wrong answer penalty.
Difficulty ACT questions tend to be more straightforward. Requires more time to understand and answer.
Frequency 7 times 6 times
Registration Five-Six week before the exam. Generally, four weeks before the exam.
Calculator You get a calculator for all math questions in the ACT. You do not get a calculator on all the math questions in the SAT.
Type of questions Straightforward questions may be long and challenging but are usually less difficult to understand. Questions can be phrased in ways that make them difficult to understand.
Skills heavily tested Grammar and Reading, math. Vocabulary, Reading, and Math
Formulas Few provided. Not provided
Good for Those who have strong analytical skills. Those with a diverse math background.
Acceptance Accepted by all colleges and universities and other 225 countries around the world. Accepted by all colleagues.
Pricing $116.50 ($150 without essay) $113.50 ($96.50 without essay)
Test days 15-20 times a year. 4 times a year
Regular registration deadline. About 5 weeks before test day. About 4 weeks before test day.
Late registration fees 20+ days before test day. About 11 days before test day.

Should I take the SAT or ACT?

Colleges and universities across the US use SAT to determine college admissions and scholarships of students. On the other hand, the ACT is an entrance exam for students who plan to obtain a higher education level in states like Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, Wyoming, Wisconsin, and more.

The best way to decide SAT or ACT is to take a full-length practice test of each section.

While doing SAT vs ACT comparison, you can see that content and style of the SAT and ACT are similar, you need to consider other factors like handling time pressure and tackling challenging questions. This will help you find which test fits better for you.

Tips to ace the SAT or ACT Exam:

Here are tips to ace the SAT or ACT:

  • Read questions: You need to read the question carefully and find easily eliminable answers.
  • Reduce guesswork: You do not need to blindly guess the answer. It is good that you eliminate at least one wrong answer.
  • Reduce time on one question: You do not have to spend much time on one question. Read it and move to the next one. You can return to that question later in case you cannot answer quickly.
  • Carefully read multi-part questions: You need to be careful with multiple-part questions because a wrong answer might affect the subsequent parts.
  • Eliminate wrong questions: Read all the questions carefully and use the process of elimination to increase your chances of choosing the correct multiple-choice answer.
  • Write a summary with proper proof: You need to make sure you write a conclusion with proper proof.
  • Write short and precise answers: Do not write lengthy answers as it becomes difficult to read. You need to stick to a concise and precise answer.
  • Focus on the books: You need to focus only on content written in the book.
  • Divide your essay into paragraphs: You need to structure the essay in various small paragraphs.
  • Check your strong and weak points: You need to find out your strengths and weaknesses and focus on building a strong overall skill set to eliminate your weak points.
  • Eliminate excessive use of calculator: Do not rely extremely on the calculator. It may slow down your speed of solving math questions.


⚡ Do colleges and universities abroad give equal importance to the ACT and the SAT?

A common belief is that some reputed colleges prefer the SAT over the ACT. Today, all Colleges and Universities require standardized testing like SAT and ACT. Both courses are given equal importance by the educational institutes.

❓ Should I take the SAT or ACT?

Most colleges require the ACT or SAT. Almost all will accept either test, so you do not necessarily need to take the ACT. Moreover, some schools have test-optional admissions policies. However, some states do require the ACT for high school graduation.

💻 What makes great ACT online test prep courses?

You need to consider the following aspects to find the best ACT online prep course:

  • Learning needs: An online ACT preparation course enables you to learn through 1:1 tutoring, video lessons, eBooks, and more, which helps you to find comfortable methods so that you grasp the topics for the ACT exam.
  • Self-paced learning: Self-paced learning helps you to plan for preparing ACT exam as per your convenience. A good ACT preparation course allows you to learn at your own pace.
  • Budget: ACT courses may vary in prices according to plans. A good online ACT prep course should fit in your budget with your learning needs and preparation time.

❗ How to Pass the ACT?

Here are tips and tricks to reach your target score in the ACT test:

  • Work questions out of order.
  • Forget the right answer and find the wrong ones.
  • Know the best way to bubble in.
  • Develop a strategy for each section of the ACT.
  • Build the right ACT prep plan.

🏅 What are the differences between the score reporting policies between the ACT and SAT?

The SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600, and the ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36. You should remember that you will only be scored for every correct answer that you give, and you will not get any penalty for incorrect answers for the ACT while you will get ¼ penalty for the wrong answer in SAT on both tests.

🚀 Which exam is harder SAT or ACT?

Neither the SAT nor the ACT is harder than the other. However, each test benefits different types of students. It’s important that you find out which test is best suited for you so that you can achieve the highest scores possible.