ACT vs SAT: which test is a better fit for your student? Students may take whichever test they prefer (assuming there are available testing locations for both tests). If you’re not sure which test your child would prefer, consider the key differences between the ACT and SAT. Some students find that the ACT caters to their strengths more so than the SAT, and vice versa.
Need a quick side-by-side comparison of the tests? Check out our ACT vs SAT Comparison Chart.
|reasoning test||Type of Test||content-based test|
|Critical Reading: 2, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section; Math: 2, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section; Writing: 1, 25-min essay, 1, 25-min section, and 1, 10-min section||Test Format||English: 1, 45-min section; Math: 1, 60-min section; Reading: 1, 35-min section; Science: 1, 35-min section; Writing: 1, 30-min essay (optional)|
|reading, vocabulary, grammar & usage, writing, and math||Content Covered||grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional)|
|tricky, questions can be phrased in ways that make them difficult to decipher||Test Style||straightforward, questions may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher|
|Math, Critical Reading, and Writing scores will each range between a 200-800; total SAT score ranges between 600-2400||Scoring||English, Math, Reading, and Science scores will each range between 1-36. Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges between 1-36|
|yes – you lose ¼ of a point for incorrect answers (except on the grid-in math questions)||Penalty for Wrong Answers?||no – you do not lose points for incorrect answers|
|yes – you can choose which set(s) of SAT scores to submit to colleges||Score Choice?||yes – you can choose which set(s) of ACT scores to submit to colleges|
|questions increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section (except reading passage questions, which progress chronologically through the passage)||Difficulty Levels||difficulty level of the questions is random|
|arithmetic, data analysis, algebra I and II, functions, geometry; formulas are provided in the test booklet||Math Levels||arithmetic, algebra I and II, functions, geometry, trigonometry; no formulas are provided|
|with private schools and schools on the east and west coasts; however, every four-year college in the US accepts SAT scores||Tends to be more popular?||with public schools and schools in the Midwest and south; however, every four-year college in the US accepts ACT scores|
|seven times per year: January, March or April, May, June, October, November, December||Offered when?||six times per year: February, April, June, September, October, December (note that some states offer the ACT as part of their state testing requirements; these tests are not administered on the national test dates)|
|typically about four weeks before the test date||Registration deadline?||typically about five to six weeks before the test date|
SAT or ACT? Find out which test is more popular in your state.
Want to learn more about the ACT? Visit our ACT Test page.
Want to learn more about the SAT? Visit our SAT Test page.
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