ACT vs SAT: What's the difference?

July 5, 2021

If you are wondering which is better for yourself or a student, you can choose whichever you would prefer or you feel more fit with. This assuming there are going to be testing centres for each test and where they are located.

If you or your child are testing, you will want to know the key differences between each test to see which caters to your strengths. You might find the ACT test style easier than the SAT, or vice versa.

Here are some important differences between the SAT and the ACT

Test Type: They are both content-based tests. The format for each of the tests is detailed below:

1 - Reading

  • The SAT Reading is a 1 - 65 minute section.
  • The ACT reading is a 1 - 35 minute section.

2 - Math

  • This SAT Math section is a 1 -25 minute section with no calculator as well as a 1 - 55 minute section with a calculator.
  • The ACT math is simply a 1 - 60 minute section.
ACT test prep

ACT test prep

3 - Writing & Language Sections

  • This SAT Writing and Language section is a 1 - 35 minute section with a 1 - 50 minute essay. This is optional and as of June 2021, the College Board will no longer be offering the essay section in the SAT.
  • The English section of the ACT offers a 1 - 45 minute section and the Writing section is optional and is a 1 - 40 minute section.

4 - Science Section

  • This ACT Science section is a 1 - 35 minute section.

5 - Here is the SAT and ACT Covered Content

  • The SAT covers Reading, Grammar and Usage, Math, Relevant Words in Context and it is optional for Analytical Writing
  • The ACT is Reading, Grammar and Usage, Math, Science and Reasoning and Writing is optional.

6 - What is the Test Style?

  • The SAT questions keep the focus on multi-step problem solving and real-world situations that are context-based.
  • The ACT questions are longer, easier, and more straightforward than the SAT.

7 - ACT vs SAT Scoring?

  • The SAT scores their Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing scores between 200 to 800. The composite score is in the range of 400-1600 and is the sum of both section’s scores.
  • The ACT Science, Math, English, Reading is in a range of 1 to 36. The score of the Composite ACT is based on the average scores of all four sections.

8 - Wrong Answer Penalties in the ACT and SAT?

  • You do not lose any points for incorrect answers. You only gain points with correct answers.

9 - What are the score choices for both the SAT and ACT?

  • On both the SAT and ACT you can choose a set, or sets of scores to submit to certain colleges. There are many colleges that will require you to submit all your SAT and ACT scores.

10 - What are the ACT vs the SAT Difficulty Levels?

  • The Math for both the ACT and the SAT rise in difficulty as you progress in that section. The Writing and Language sections of the SAT do not progress by difficulty level. The SAT Reading passages will progress in a chronological order and not subject to the difficulty level.
  • The Reading sections for English in the ACT are random for the difficulty level. The Science section in the ACT progresses in difficulty as the test goes on.

11 - What are the maths involved in the ACT and the SAT?

  • The SAT math goes over data analysis, arithmetic, problem-solving, geometry, trigonometry with providing the formulas.
  • The ACT includes arithmetic geometry, algebra 1 and 2 and you do not need to provide the formulas.

Depending on your learning style, you can use the above as a guide as to which test would be the best choice. Whether you choose to prep for the ACT or SAT, ensure you study hard for these tests and supplement your studying with ACT/SAT tutoring. If you want to find some ways to study for these tests, simply Google how to study for the ACT and SATs.


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