Since 2007, any university in the US that seeks a standardized test score accepts both SAT and ACT. There is no preference for one test over the other as far as the university admission process is concerned, as there is a popular myth that SAT scores are preferred over ACT scores. Often students find it challenging to determine which test will suit them better. We recommend every child to give a full-time practice test for both SAT and ACT, and compare the respective percentiles in both the tests as that will help in a long way to determine which test suits you better. We at SAT Champ provide private SAT Tutoring in Gurgaon (Gurugram).

The difference between the ACT and the SAT is the most decisive factor that must be taken into consideration as to which test will give you the best possible results. With both tests being standardized that colleges and universities use as a benchmark when making admission decisions, there are some key differences as follows.

·The ACT is a computer-based test for all the candidates taking the test outside of the US, whereas the SAT is a pencil paper test.

·The exam pattern for SAT and ACT is different as illustrated in the charts below

SAT Pattern

Section Section Name No. of Questions Time Allotted (Minutes)
1 Reading 52 65
2 Writing and Language 44 35
3 Mathematics (No Calculator) 20 25
4 Mathematics (Calculator) 38 55
5 Essay (Optional) 50
Total 154 180(230 with Essay)

ACT Pattern

SectionSection NameNo. of QuestionsTime Allotted (Minutes)
5Writing (Optional)40
Total215175 (215 with Essay)

As one can see, in the SAT, 154 questions need to be answered in a time duration of 180 minutes (70 seconds per question), whereas in ACT 215 needs to be answered in a time duration of 175 minutes (49 seconds per question). Though time to answer per question is more in SAT, in general SAT questions are trickier, requiring careful reading whereas ACT questions are generally straight forward.

The SAT offers more time per question on all sections of the exam. The following chart illustrates the same.

Reading75 seconds/question 53 seconds/question
ACT English / SAT Writing 48 seconds/question 36 seconds/question
Math No Calculator: 75 seconds/question 60 seconds/question
Calculator: 87 seconds/question
Science Not Applicable 53 seconds/question
  • The ACT includes a science section to test your critical thinking skills and not your specific science knowledge while there is no science section on the SAT. However, the science section in ACT does not require you to memorize formulas or theories, but the ACT science section assesses your reading and reasoning skills based on a given set of facts.
  • The vocabulary tested on the SAT is more intensive than the ACT.
  • The ACT tests higher-level math than the SAT. The ACT focuses a lot more on geometry as compared to SAT. Also, ACT examines some concepts like logarithms, matrices, graphs of trigonometric functions, which the SAT doesn’t test at all. So, if one’s stronghold is language over math and science, one should consider giving the SAT, but if it’s the other way round, one should go for the ACT.
  • SAT contains specific math no calculator section, whereas the ACT allows the use of a calculator for the entire math section. 
  • SAT focuses primarily on logic and reasoning, whereas The ACT is a straight forward content test. One who has a more analytical bent of mind can prefer the SAT over the ACT.
  • In the ACT, Math score contributes to one-fourth (25%) of your total score. However, on the SAT, Math contributes one-half (50%) of your overall score, making a big difference considering both the tests. So, if math isn’t your forte, consider opting for the ACT. 
  • The ACT Math section has five answer choices for each question, whereas SAT Math has four. So, if you are guessing a question, the probability of getting an answer correct varies for both the tests, 25% in SAT, 20% in the ACT to be precise.
  • Evidence-support questions are not at all asked in ACT Reading though they form a big part of SAT Reading.
  • Though the essay section is optional in both SAT and ACT. However, there is a significant difference as to how both the tests deal with the essay content. In SAT, one’s focus should not be to summarize the passage but rather how the author uses reasoning, evidence, and other techniques to make the passage persuasive and convincing without giving your own opinion. In the SAT, One’s focus should not be to summarize the passage but rather how the author uses reasoning, evidence, and other techniques to make the passage persuasive and convincing. You cannot provide your own opinion on the matter here, whereas in the ACT, one needs to analyze the different perspectives on this issue, and you will also provide your own opinion on the matter here.
  • The ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36, whereas the SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600. Both the College Board and the ACT organization provide conversion charts to show how these composite scores compare. The table below offers a breakdown of these data.