ACT vs. SAT

Use this chart to compare the SAT and ACT tests and determine which type of test best fits your student. You might want to consider taking both tests to determine which test yields the higher score.  Please note that although the writing portion of the ACT test is optional (for an additional fee), most colleges request that you take the writing portion of the test when taking the ACT.

 

SAT

ACT

Why Take It?

Colleges use SAT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.

Colleges use ACT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.

Test Structure

  • Reading
  • Writing & Language
  • Math
  • Essay (Optional)
  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science Reasoning Essay (Optional)

Length

  • 3 hours (without essay)
  • 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)
  • 2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)
  • 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)

Reading

5 reading passages

4 reading passages

Science

None

1 science section testing your critical thinking skills (not your specific science knowledge)

Math

Covers:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I & II
  • Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis

Covers:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I & II
  • Geometry and Trigonometry

Calculator Policy

Some math questions don’t allow you to use a calculator.

You can use a calculator on all math questions.

Essays

Optional. The essay will test your comprehension of a source text.

Optional. The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.

How It’s Scored

Scored on a scale of 400-1600

Scored on a scale of 1-36