SAT vs ACT – Which Test Should You Take?

The two most widely-used tests to gauge whether someone can get into a particular college are the SAT and ACT. The class of 2019 saw 2.2 million students take the SAT, while 1.8 million took the ACT. An increasing trend over the past decade is for students to take both. With there being two choices, students may be confused as to which test to take. In this article we’re going help make the decision easier.

ACT vs SAT – How They Differ

There are many differences between the ACT and SAT. However, they do have one thing in common: they are both equally as challenging. That means if you are looking to take one over the other due to it being easier, you will be disappointed. The similarities end there. Here are the major ways these two tests differ.

Different Scoring

The SAT has scores that range between 400 and 1600. The ACT has scores ranging from 1 to 36. The average SAT score for the class of 2019 was 1059, while the average for the ACT was 20.7.

Different Timing

The required portion of the SAT takes three hours, while the optional essay portion has a time limit of 50 minutes. The ACT comes in as being slightly shorter, at 2 hours and 55 minutes, with an optional writing test that lasts 40 minutes. The SAT has 154 questions while the ACT has 215. As far as the section breakdown goes, the reading portion of the SAT lasts 65 minutes, the writing portion is 35 minutes, and the math section lasts for 80 minutes. The section breakdown for the ACT includes 35 minutes for the reading section, 45 minutes for the English portion, 60 minutes for the math section, and 35 minutes for the science test.

Other Differences

There are a few other ways these two tests differ. The SAT has no science portion, while the ACT does. For the math section, both the SAT and ACT cover basic math, algebra, trigonometry, and geometry. However, the SAT also includes data analysis, while the ACT covers probability and statistics. You can use a calculator on all parts of the ACT, but only on some parts of the SAT.

New Updates to the ACT

There have been some new updates to the SAT in 2020 that may make the test more appealing. It is now possible to receive test results faster when you take the online version of the ACT. This is a first for the ACT. You will still have to go to an official testing center, but have the ability to take the test online instead of taking the paper version.

Also, a concept called superscoring has been introduced. What this allows is for you to isolate the sections that you scored best at and apply them towards your overall score. This means that when you take the ACT multiple times, you can pick out your best scores and get a higher score than you did on any individual comprehensive ACT. This could make a major difference between getting into the college of your dreams and not getting that acceptance letter.

Another change related to superscoring is the ability to retake individual sections of the test, instead of taking the entire exam over again. This saves on time and preparation, making it even easier to score higher than before.

Now that you know the SAT vs ACT differences, you are probably now clearer on which test you would prefer to take. Whichever one you decide on, having a test tutor can mean the difference between getting into your dream school and not getting accepted.


Contact us at Owly Tutoring for a free consultation regarding your test prep needs!