SAT vs ACT

Which test is right for you?

 

You can take the SAT, ACT, or both. Most four-year US colleges and universities will accept either.

Here are some basic differences to consider:

 

The ACT has a Science test, and the SAT does not.

The SAT has two Math tests, and the ACT has one.

There is more both Science and Math to prepare for on the ACT.

The SAT gives more time per question than the ACT does.

Click below to expand each section.

Timing

SAT

3 hours
+50 minutes for optional essay
total time = 3 hours + 50 minutes
(without breaks)

ACT

2 hours + 55 minutes
+40 minutes for optional essay
total time = 3 hours + 35 minutes
(without breaks)

Sections

SAT

Reading
Writing and Language
Math with calculator
Math without calculator
Essay (Optional)

ACT

Reading
English
Math
Science
Essay (Optional)

Reading

SAT

65 minutes

5 passages, 52 questions

Average of 1.25 minutes/question

 

Questions in chronological order

 

Passages:
US or World Literature
Social Science
2 Natural Science
US History

 

Question Types:
Main Idea
Words-in-Context
Inference
Detail-Oriented
Command of Evidence
Data Reasoning
Technique

ACT

35 minutes

4 passages, 40 questions

Average of 0.87 minutes/question

 

Questions are ordered randomly

 

Passages:
Prose Fiction or Literary Narrative
Social Science
Natural Science
Humanities

 

Question Types:
Main Idea
Words-in-Context
Inference
Detail-Oriented

 

Writing and Language

English

SAT

35 minutes

44 questions

4 passages, 11 questions each

Average of 0.80 minutes/question

 

Standard English Conventions:
Sentence Structure
Conventions of Usage
Conventions of Punctuation

 

Expression of Ideas:
Organization
Effective Language Use
Development

ACT

45 minutes

75 questions

5 passages, 15 questions each

Average of 0.60 minutes/question

 

Usage and Mechanics:
Sentence Structure
Grammar and Usage
Punctuation

 

Rhetorical Skills:
Organization
Style
Strategy

Science

SAT

Time: N/A – no separate section

 

35 Questions

 

2 passages in Reading (21 questions)
1 passage in Writing (6 questions)
and Math (8 questions)

 

Content varies by section

ACT

35 minutes

40 Questions

6 or 7 passages, 5-7 questions each

Average of 0.87 minutes/question

 

Data Representation : 30-40%
Research Summaries : 45-55%
Conflicting Viewpoints : 15-20%

 

Analysis
Interpretation
Evaluation
Basic Content
Problem Solving

Math

SAT

80 minutes

 

2 sections:
With Calculator: 55 minutes, 38 questions

Average of 1.45 minutes/question

 

No Calculator: 25 minutes, 20 questions

Average of 1.25 minutes/question

 

Topics:
Heart of Algebra
Problem Solving and Data Analysis
Passport to Advanced Math
Additional Topics in Math

 

 

Very Little Geometry
Lots of Algebra 1 + 2
Trigonometry

 

Multiple Choice + 13 Grid Ins
4 Answer Choices

ACT

60 minutes

 

1 Section:
With Calculator: 60 minutes, 60 questions

Average of 1.00 minute/question

 

 

 

 

Topics:
Pre-Algebra
Intermediate Algebra
Coordinate Geometry
Plane Geometry
Trigonometry

 

Geometry
Algebra 1 + 2
Trigonometry

 

Multiple Choice
5 Answer Choices

Essay

SAT

50 minutes

25% more time than the ACT essay

 

Optional

 

Must analyze author’s argument

 

Reading
Analysis
Writing

ACT

40 minutes

20% less time than the SAT essay

 

Optional

 

Must analyze 3 viewpoints then argue for your own perspective using outside examples

 

Ideas and Analysis
Development and Support
Organization
Language Use and Conventions

Scoring

SAT

Total score is between 400-1600
200-800 for Reading + Writing and Language
200-800 for Math

 

 

 

Essay scored separately

ACT

Total score is between1-36 (average of all)
1-36 for Reading
1-36 for English
1-36 for Math
1-36 for Science

 

Essay scored separately

Test Dates

SAT

Offered 7 times per year.
Mar/May/June/Aug/Oct/Nov/Dec

 

For upcoming SAT dates and to register, go to:
http://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-us-dates

ACT

Offered 6 times this year.
Feb/Apr/Jun/Sep/Oct/Dec

 

For upcoming ACT dates and to register, go to:
http://www.actstudent.org/regist/dates.html