ACT and SAT Similarities and Differences

Should a student take the ACT, SAT, or both? In general, it is advisable for students to try each test at least once to see how it goes. This table outlines the most important similarities and differences between the ACT and SAT so you know which might end up being a better fit.

FormatFour Sections: English, Math, Reading, Science

Optional Section: Writing
Both take about 4 hours to complete Four Sections: Reading, Writing & Language, Math Without Calculator, Math With Calculator

No Essay Section
ScoringScored between 1-36. Composite score is an average of the four individual sections.Both tests are graded on a curve.Reading and Writing & Language Section is half the score, and Math is the other half. Each section is scored between 200-800, with a total composite score between 400-1600.
TimingNeed to read about 200-250 words per minute to complete Reading section. Need to do each math question in about a minute. Both tests offer extended time accommodations to students who qualify. Need to read about 100-150 words per minute to complete Reading section. Need about 1-1.5 minutes to complete each math question.
ContentHas a stand-alone science section. Important to memorize math formulas, and from a broader array of topics, like matrices and logarithms. Both test reading and grammar skills, math through pre-calculus, and graph analysis skills. Has evidence-based questions on the reading. Some math formulas are provided. Math focuses more in-depth on the fundamentals of algebra and problem solving. No science section, but graph and data analysis throughout the test sections.
Who Prefers?Students who are able to complete the ACT typically prefer it. Also students who have extended time are usually able to comfortably read all the material. Students who have performed well on the Pre-ACT.Students who have good reading comprehension, grammar knowledge, and math skills tend to do well on both tests. Colleges throughout the United States will accept either the ACT or SAT. Students who like more time to complete their work. Also, students who prefer more in-depth analysis questions (like word problems and evidence-based questions on the reading). Students who have performed well on the PSAT.