Difference between the ACT and SAT
The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities.
The ACT has up to 5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test. The SAT has only 3 components: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test.
The comparison below helps making the choice easier
SAT Vs ACT
- SAT is a reasoning test
- Test format - Critical Reading: 2, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section; Math: 2, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section; Writing: 1, 25-min essay, 1, 25-min section, and 1, 10-min section
- Content covered is reading, vocabulary, grammar & usage, writing, and math. The questions are often tricky and can be phrased in ways that make them difficult to decipher
- Math, Critical Reading, and Writing scores will each range between 200-800; total SAT score ranges between 600-2400
- There is a penalty for wrong answer and you lose ¼ of a point for incorrect answers (except on the grid-in math questions)
- The questions increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section
- The SAT test is popular with private schools and schools on the east and west coasts; however, every four-year college in the US accepts SAT scores
- It is offered seven times per year: January, March or April, May, June, October, November, December and registration deadline is typically about four weeks before the test date.
- ACT is a content based test.
- Test format - English: 1, 45-min section; Math: 1, 60-min section; Reading: 1, 35-min section; Science: 1, 35-min section; Writing: 1, 30-min essay (optional)
- Content covered is grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional). The questions are straightforward and may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher.
- English, Math, Reading, and Science scores will each range between 1-36. Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges between 1-36
- There is no penalty for wrong answers
- The difficulty levels of the questions is random
- The ACT test is popular with public schools and schools in the Midwest and south; however, every four-year college in the US accepts ACT scores
- It is offered six times per year: February, April, June, September, October, December (note that some states offer the ACT as part of their state testing requirements; these tests are not administered on the national test dates) and the registration deadline is typically about five to six weeks before the test date