20+ Differences between SAT and ACT (Explained)

It is common practice for American colleges and universities to request ACT or SAT scores from applicants. Exams like these are simply one component of the application process for colleges that overseas applicants must complete.

When you apply to a college and include your ACT, or SAT results with your application, the admissions committee at that institution will examine those scores as one of the ways to evaluate your abilities and preparation for college.

Comparison between SAT And ACT

ScoresWhen taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), students can earn an overall score ranging from 400 to 1600 points, depending on how well they do on the exam.The ACT uses a scale that ranges from one point all the way up to 36 points, and your score will be based on this scale, which runs from one all the way up to 36. This scale begins at one point and may go as high as thirty-six points in either direction from there. The range of this scale is one point to thirty-six points.
Writing sectionOn the SAT, even though there are fewer questions overall the exam, you will need a lot more time to react to each question individually even though there are fewer questions overall. This is because each question is much more challenging than the one before it.On the ACT, the amount of time you can reply to each question will be decreased, but the total number of questions on the exam will increase.
When to takeIn 2022, domestic students may take the SAT tests beginning in March. The SAT is administered on Saturdays throughout the months of March, May, and June. The SAT international exam dates for foreign students occur on Saturdays in March and May, and the tests are administered in English.The last available ACT test date in 2020 is in December, while the remaining exam dates in 2021 are in February, April, June, and July for students attending domestic schools. The months of April, June, and July are set aside for the administration of the ACT to students studying abroad in 2021.
comparison between sat vs act

Major Differences Between Sat And Act

What exactly is SAT?

The SAT, which stands for “Scholastic Assessment test,” is a standardized exam required for admission to institutions in the United States and Canada for undergraduate study.

It’s a paper-and-pencil exam that may tell you a lot about an applicant’s grasp of the English language and their aptitude for numbers. Your SAT scores will also be considered by the colleges you apply to.

Key Differences: SAT

  • The highest possible score was 1600. (a combination of the two parts)
  • Problems from the “real world,” evidence-based and content-based methods, and solutions that include many steps.
  • Writing: very similar to the English portion of the ACT exam but includes charts and graphs throughout the whole test.
  • Reading will put a larger emphasis not just on historical texts, charts, and graphs but also on vocabulary. The new policy will be implemented beginning with the spring semester.
  • Includes a math section that may be completed without the need for a calculator. Includes a “grid-in” format allowing specific answer options to be selected.
  • There is no category here that can be categorized as “Science.”
features of sat

What exactly is the ACT?

The College Admissions Test (ACT) assesses a student’s academic potential and provides schools with a standardized metric for comparing applications.

The admissions committee at your chosen university will consider your SAT/ACT scores alongside your high school GPA, courses taken, letters of reference from teachers or mentors, extracurricular activities, interviews, and personal essays.

Key Differences: ACT

  • The highest possible rating is 36. (an average of four different portions).
  • Simple questions. However, the test was really long, and there was a lot of pressure to finish on time.
  • Equivalent to the SAT in English Writing but without the use of graphs and charts.
  • In the reading portion of the exam, more emphasis is focused on comprehension rather than vocabulary usage (no charts & graphs).
  • In each and every one of the math courses, the use of calculators is permitted.
  • The “Science” part is made up of various graphs and charts.
  • Optional Essay: When developing your own argument, you should consider an issue and three distinct points of view.
features of act

Contrast Between SAT And ACT

Course content:

  • SAT- Although a few questions on the SAT test students’ scientific knowledge and ability, the test does not feature a separate section dedicated to testing students’ scientific knowledge and ability in the same way that the ACT does.

    In contrast, the ACT includes a section that tests students’ scientific knowledge and their capacity to apply that information in real-world scenarios.
  • ACT- The objective of the science portion of the ACT is not to measure students’ precise scientific knowledge; rather, it places a greater emphasis on critical thinking and is intended to test students’ capability to analyze information.


  • SAT- Before the actual conducting of the examinations, the expenses associated with such examinations have in no manner, shape, or form been determined in any way, shape, or form in any way. The current SAT cost is $52 for each section taken separately.
  • ACT- If you want to take the exam, it will cost you $55, but if you also want to take the optional writing test, the total fee will be $70. It will cost you $45 to only take the test if that’s all you want to do.

    If you merely wish to take the test, there is a fee of $55 associated with it. If you are just interested in taking the exam, there is a charge of $55 connected with that option.


  • SAT- The SAT will include a portion dedicated to data interpretation. On the other hand, you may expect to see questions on the ACT that span a variety of subjects connected to probability and statistics.

    Calculators may be used for part of the SAT but not for another part of the exam. Calculators can be used for part of the SAT but not for another part of the test.
  • ACT- One of the most striking differences between the mathematics sections of the ACT and those of the SAT is that the ACT does not permit the use of a calculator in any of the questions.

    In contrast, the SAT permits using a calculator in all of its questions. This is a major distinction between the mathematics parts of the two exams.

Reading section:

  • SAT- You will have a total of 65 minutes to react to a total of 52 questions on the SAT, all of which are based on five reading passages.

    It takes an average of nine minutes and 37 seconds to finish each segment, while it takes an average of 69 seconds to finish each question. The total length of time required to finish the test is 24 minutes and 57 seconds.
  • ACT- You will have thirty-five minutes to reply to forty questions on the ACT that are based on four reading passages (three of which include large reading passages, and one of which has two shorter readings).

    On average, ten minutes are spent on each individual component of the process. The amount of time that is typically spent responding to each inquiry is 52.5 seconds on average.


  • SAT- The extent to which you can grasp the source material that is provided to you is one of the primary factors that will decide how well you do on the essay component of the SAT. This portion of the test accounts for one-quarter of your overall score.

    Thus it is quite important to do well in it. After being modified to correspond to its equivalent in percentage terms, this score will be included in the report.
  • ACT- The performance you turn in for the essay section of the ACT exam will serve as the foundation for assessing how effectively you can analyze and evaluate the complicated subject matter.

    This determination will be based on how well you do on the test’s essay portion. While you are concentrating on writing the essay, the essay will be graded and analyzed in the background while you work on writing the essay.


  • SAT- If your understanding of mathematics is broader but less in-depth, and if you struggle to hold mathematical problems in your brain, you should give taking the SAT substantial attention if you want to increase your chances of getting into the institution of your choosing.
  • ACT- If you are secure in comprehending more complex mathematical principles and equations, prefer simple questions, and find joy in using a calculator, you should consider taking the ACT.

    If this fits how you feel about testing, the ACT is the best option available to you. The SAT is a good choice for you to consider if you are seeking straightforward and simple questions.

Time duration:

  • SAT- The SAT is the most time-consuming of the two exams, clocking in at three hours without the essay and three hours and 50 minutes with it. The Sat clocks in at two hours and ten minutes.

    The total time required to complete the Sat is two hours and 45 minutes. The Sat test is scheduled to take a total of two hours and ten minutes of a candidate’s time. It takes a total of two hours and 45 minutes to complete all of the sections of the Sat test.
  • ACT- However, the time allocated for the writing component of the test is an additional 35 minutes; this increases the total amount of time that is available for the exam to three hours. The total amount of time available for the ACT exam is three hours.


  • SAT- When you take the SAT, the cost of the exam covers the cost of sending your score reports to four different schools and institutions, and you may register for the exam online.

    You may get an up-to-date breakdown of the charges associated with anything from enrolling late to getting your results over the phone by consulting the table of prices that is available on the SAT website. Take into account that not all services are accessible from other countries.
  • ACT- You may sign up for the ACT exam on the website. If you need to register after the deadline, switch your test date or location, or make any other changes to your registration, there will be a cost associated with each of these actions.

    Visit the website of the ACT or ACT Global, depending on whether you are a student studying in the United States or abroad.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. How does the New SAT work?

In 2016, significant changes were made to the structure and design of the SAT examination, and the test became known as the New SAT as a result.

Even while the fundamental requirements for taking the test and its overall format have not been altered, the New SAT has introduced several significant changes to various other aspects, such as the topic titles, the examination length, and the scoring system.

Q2. To take the SAT, what are the prerequisites that must be met?

Students often take the SAT after graduating from high school. They are required to enroll in university programs, even though there are no predetermined eligibility requirements for taking the SAT test or age requirements for participating in the SAT test.

Therefore, in most cases, students between the ages of 16 and 18 take this examination.

Q3. Who is qualified to take the ACT exam?

Students in grades 6, 7, 8, and 9, as well as those who have graduated from high school, are eligible to submit an application for the ACT exam.

The American College Testing Program (ACT) allows anybody to submit an application for the test, regardless of age or academic grade level.

Q4. What is the purpose of taking the ACT test?

The American College Testing (ACT) is a standardized exam that evaluates your college preparedness and considers your results when making admissions decisions.

This is one of the criteria that will be considered in determining whether or not you will be admitted to a college or university.

Q5. Is the ACT a rigorous examination?

Because of its stringent time limits, the ACT is difficult for many pupils. On the English part, you’ll have 45 minutes to answer 75 questions, which equates to 36 seconds for each question.

There will be 60 questions in the math section, and you’ll have 60 minutes to answer them.

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