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ACT vs SAT: Key differences between the ACT and SAT

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.

SAT VS ACT

Type of Test:

Content-based test
Type of Test

Type of Test:

Content-based test

Test Format:

Reading: 1, 65-min section; Math: 1, 25-min section (no calculator) & 1, 55-min section (w/ calculator); Writing & Langauge: 1, 35-min section; Essay: 1, 50-min section (optional)

Test Format

Test Format:

English: 1, 45-min section; Math: 1, 60-min section; Reading: 1, 35-min section; Science: 1, 35-min section; Writing: 1, 40-min essay (optional)

Content Covered:

Reading, relevant words in context, math, grammar & usage, analytical writing (optional)
Content Covered

Content Covered:

Grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional)

Test Style:

Questions are evidence and context-based in an effort to focus on real-world situations and multi-step problem-solving
Test Style

Test Style:

Straightforward, questions may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher

Scoring:

Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing are each scored on a scale of 200-800. Composite SAT score is the sum of the two section scores and ranged from 400-1600.
Scoring

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

Penalty for Wrong Answers?

No – you do not lose points for incorrect answers
Penalty for Wrong Answers?

Penalty for Wrong Answers?

No – you do not lose points for incorrect answers

Score Choice?

Yes – you can choose which set(s) of SAT scores to submit to colleges
Score Choice?

Score Choice?

Yes – you can choose which set(s) of ACT scores to submit to colleges

Difficulty Levels:

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 Levels:

Difficulty level of the questions is random

Math Levels:

Arithmetic, problem-solving & data analysis, heart of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry; formulas provided.
Math Levels

Math Levels:

Arithmetic, algebra I and II, functions, geometry, trigonometry; no formulas are provided

Tends to be more popular?

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?

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

Offered when?

Seven times per year: January, March or April, May, June, October, November, December
Offered when?

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)

Registration deadline?

Typically about four weeks before the test date
Registration deadline?

Registration deadline?

Typically about five to six weeks before the test date

More Information:

www.collegeboard.com
More Information

More Information:

www.act.org

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