ACT VS SAT | Key Differences | Which Test is Right for You?

Hi readers! In this post, we will check out the key difference between the ACT and SAT. The ACT and SAT are admission tests. High school students will benefit from this post.


Before heading to the meat of the matter – ACT VS SAT – let us take a quick look at each test. In the next section, you will find important details about the ACT. Following that, you will find important details about SAT.


What is ACT?

The ACT is a National college admissions examination. This exam is known to facilitate college admission process in the US (four-year colleges and Universities).


The test deals with subjects such as –

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Science


What is SAT?

The SAT is a paper-based examination which you would have to pass if you are looking to get admitted to any college in the United States. The SAT examination started its journey in the year of 1926, and since then its name, exam method and the scoring has been changed quite a bit of time. At first, it was known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test. You may also check – SAT preparation guide by experts.


ACT VS SAT – let us compare these tests now. Key differences between these tests arise in areas such as –

  • Fee
  • Duration
  • Test content/structure
  • Score reporting


We will take a close look at each factor and have an in-depth analysis of each difference! Come, let us start –


ACT VS SAT: Detailed Comparison


1 Fees

$50.50 $46
$67.50 (with writing) $60 (with essay test)


2 Test duration

3 hours and 15 minutes 3 hours


3 Test structure/subjects

ACT Mathematics test (60 items) Math (58 items)
ACT reading test (40 items) Reading test (52 items)
ACT science test (40 items)
ACT English test (75 items) Writing and Language test (44 items)
ACT writing test (Optional) Essay (Optional)


4 Score reporting


4.1 ACT score reporting

  • Scores based on the number of correct answers
  • No penalty for incorrect answers
  • Has enhanced score reporting
  • ACT Composite score: 1-36 (average of four test scores)
  • ACT English test: 1-36
  • ACT reading test: 1-36
  • ACT mathematics test: 1-36
  • ACT science test: 1-36
  • ACT writing (optional) test: 2-12
  • STEM Score: 1-36
  • ELA Score: 1-36


4.2 SAT score reporting

  • Scores based on the number of correct answers
  • No penalty for incorrect answers
  • Scale: ranging from 400 to 1600
  • Evidence based reading and writing scale: ranging from 200 to 800
  • Math scale: ranging from 200 to 800
  • Essay scale: ranging from 2 to 8 on each of three traits


ACT or SAT – Which test is right for you?

ACT and SAT – both of them are nationally recognized tests. Many colleges accept scores from either ACT or SAT. These tests have been created keeping the needs of high school students in mind. These tests facilitate college admission process.


Which test should I choose, some of you may ask. Choosing the ideal test is an important task. If you are capable of taking both tests, you may prepare for both ACT and SAT. Right mindset, good strategy and will to work hard – these things will help you take a decent shot at both tests. You may also check – ACT Fees structure.


Here are some tips, which will help you choose the right test –


1 Take ACT and SAT prep tests

You may use online portals and easily get access to tons of test prep material. Taking ACT and SAT prep tests will help you in many ways. It will help you know/understand the nature of each test. It will help you identify the differences and salient features (of each test).


You may also check – best STEM majors


After attempting prep tests, you will get a better idea about ‘difficulty level’ of each test. If you are comfortable with ACT, you may choose it. If you find SAT easier, you may choose SAT over ACT.


2 State-wise test requirement

Many colleges accept either ACT or SAT scores. State-wise requirements may vary from one state to another though! Some states require all students to take ACT. On the other hand, some states require all students to take SAT. If your state requires you to take a test (mandatory), it makes sense to choose that (default) test. For example – Utah state requires all students to take the ACT. Similarly, Colorado state requires all students to take SAT.

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