• ACT® vs SAT®: Which Test Should You Take?

    Side-by-Side Comparison of Format, Scoring, and Content

    Both the ACT and the SAT are nationally administered standardized tests that help colleges evaluate candidates. All schools accept either test interchangeably. So as you begin to think about college and creating the best application package possible, your admissions plan should begin with the question, "Which test should I take?" Here’s how to compare them.

    Compare the tests so you can decide which you should take

    Test Structure and Format ACT New SAT
    Length 3 hours, 35 min (with optional Writing Test) 3 hours, 50 minutes (with optional Essay)
    Structure 4 sections (English, Math, Reading, Science) plus an Optional Essay (or Writing Test) 4 sections (Evidence-Based Reading, Writing, Math without a calculator, Math with a calculator) plus an Optional Essay
    Scoring ACT New SAT
    Score Composite of 1-36 based on average scores from the 4 test sections 4 scores of 1-36 for each test 
    Optional Writing Test score of 1-36 (not included in the overall)
    Score is out of 1600: 800 for Math, 800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Optional Essay receives a separate score
    Subscores and insight scores available
    Wrong Answer Penalty No penalty for wrong answers No penalty for wrong answers
    Sending Score History You decide which score is sent Not yet known
    Content ACT New SAT
    Reading Reading Comprehension Reading Comprehension
    Words in Context
    Evidence Based
    Math Arithmetic 
    Algebra
    Geometry
    Algebra II
    Trigonometry
    Algebra
    Data Analysis
    Geometry
    Trigonometry
    Algebra II
    Science Analysis
    Interpretation
    Evaluation
    Basic Content
    Problem Solving
    Science Insight Score

    Provided 
    Writing and Language The Essay: Writing Test

    English Test: Writing & Language multiple-choice questions
    Tests grammatical and rhetorical skills
    Essay Optional final section
    40 minutes
    Not included in composite score
    Topic presents conversations around contemporary issues
    Optional final section
    50 minutes
    Separate score
    Tests Reading, Analysis, and Writing Skills
    Topic comes from a 750-word passage to be read on Test Day

    SAT vs. ACT: Understanding the Differences

    There is no significant content difference between the ACT and the SAT, though the ACT’s math section is slightly more rigorous in testing complex math comprehension. If you are a student who does well in math, you might want to consider the ACT.
     
    If you are a student who needs more time when taking an exam, then you might consider the SAT, since it clocks in at 3 hours and 50 minutes, while the ACT is allotted 3 hours and 35 minutes for testing.
     
    The best way to determine which test best fits your test-taking style, test the tests themselves! See which exam fits you, take a sample ACT and SAT here.
     
    Or, take the quick diagnostic test to the right and see which exam is right for you.In addition to comparing test structure and content, it’s also important to think about your college admissions timeline when making your exam decision.