ACT vs. SAT: How to Choose the Right Test

ACT vs. SAT: How to Choose the Right Test
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Both ACT and SAT have multiple-choice sections listed in the same order. The SAT includes sections that focus on reading, writing, math with a calculator, and math without a calculator. The ACT includes English, reading, math, and science. In addition, you can write an optional essay when taking both of these tests. If you choose the SAT, you’ll have 3 hours and 50 minutes to complete it, which is 15 minutes more than the time you’ll be given during the ACT. To understand what test is best for you, check out this guide at blog.

Is Timing the Same?

Not exactly. You will spend almost the same time in the room but you will need to manage your time differently. The SAT requires you to answer 154 questions, and you’ll have 70 seconds for each question. The ACT includes 215 questions so you’ll need to answer each question in 49 seconds. Thus, the ACT may turn out to be a more stressful experience for some students.

Your Score

On the SAT, reading, writing, and language are combined into a single score which sums with the overall math score. You may get 200 to 800 for each of these segments, getting 400 to 1600 in total.

On the ACT, you may get 1 to 36 points in each section. Most students usually get about 20 points while 26 would be higher than the score of 82% of students.


The ACT includes the science section. Does it mean that you must be good at science? You will certainly need to know how a cell is built, as well as the basic principles of thermodynamics. You will have to read graphs and charts, analyzing data. You may also use given formulas.

Even though this section may look difficult when you see it for the first time, it’s not more complex than other sections of the test.

Where Math Is Easier?

Everything depends on what areas of math you’re more familiar with. The ACT contains more complex questions than the SAT — there are trigonometry and geometry. All the problems are presented in a straightforward manner, just like in textbooks.

The SAT is more about linear algebra and working with data. The presented problems are often related to real-world situations.

When completing one of the SAT math sections, you won’t be able to use a calculator, while the ACT allows you to use a calculator during the whole test.

Reading and Writing

The writing and language section of the SAT and the English section of the ACT are almost the same. You will have to read a passage and answer questions that focus on grammar, punctuation, word choice, and style. The main difference is that the SAT may also include graphs in the writing section.

The reading sections are different. The ACT includes four passages and 10 questions about every passage. Keep in mind that the questions don’t correspond to the order in which you discover answers when reading: your first question might be about the last paragraph and vice versa. In the SAT, questions correspond to the way information is presented in a passage. However, there are also unusual questions that require you to support your previous answer with a line from the passage.

Essay Sections

Essay sections are optional in both tests. The SAT requires you to read a passage and write an essay about the persuasive methods used by the author (tone, literary devices, word choice). The ACT will provide you with an issue and several opinions. You will have to evaluate different points of view and come up with your own conclusion.

Keep in mind that the essay score isn’t included in your overall score, and many schools don’t even require you to complete this section.

Which One to Choose?

You may choose the SAT if you like to use math to solve real-life problems and worry about timing. It will also be a good option if you need some guidance when working on the reading section. The ACT will be a good choice if you’re good at math and science or want to avoid vocabulary questions.

The best way to choose a test is to have some practice. Look for sample SAT and ACT tests on the internet, evaluate your possible scores, and choose the one that fits you best. Practicing will also help you feel less stressed out during the real exam.

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