ACT® vs SAT®: Which Test Should You Take?
Side-by-Side Comparison of Format, Scoring, and Content
Both the ACT and the SAT are nationally administered standardized tests that help colleges evaluate candidates. All schools accept either test interchangeably. So as you begin to think about college and creating the best application package possible, your admissions plan should begin with the question, "Which test should I take?" Here’s how to compare them.
Compare the tests so you can decide which you should take
|Test Structure and Format||ACT||SAT|
|Length||3 hours, 35 min (with optional Writing Test)||3 hours, 50 minutes (with optional Essay)|
|Structure||4 sections (English, Math, Reading, Science) plus an Optional Essay (or Writing Test)||4 sections (Evidence-Based Reading, Writing, Math without a calculator, Math with a calculator) plus an Optional Essay|
|Score||Composite of 1-36 based on average scores from the 4 test sections 4 scores of 1-36 for each test
Optional Writing Test score of 1-36 (not included in the overall)
|Score is out of 1600: 800 for Math, 800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Optional Essay receives a separate score
Subscores and insight scores available
|Wrong Answer Penalty||No penalty for wrong answers||No penalty for wrong answers|
|Sending Score History||You decide which score is sent||Not yet known|
SAT vs. ACT: Understanding the Differences
There is no significant content difference between the ACT and the SAT, though the ACT’s math section is slightly more rigorous in testing complex math comprehension. If you are a student who does well in math, you might want to consider the ACT.
If you are a student who needs more time when taking an exam, then you might consider the SAT, since it clocks in at 3 hours and 50 minutes, while the ACT is allotted 3 hours and 35 minutes for testing.
The best way to determine which test best fits your test-taking style, test the tests themselves! See which exam fits you, take a sample ACT and SAT here.
Or, take the quick diagnostic test to the right and see which exam is right for you.
In addition to comparing test structure and content, it’s also important to think about your college admissions timeline when making your exam decision.