Should students take the SAT or the ACT?

All major colleges accept the SAT and the ACT with equal preference. When deciding whether to take the SAT or the ACT, students should not speculate. Diagnostic testing and routine practice will dictate which test is best suited for the individual student.

We generally recommend that students complete a few months of tutoring before selecting to prepare for either the SAT or ACT. During this period, each student should take an SAT and an ACT diagnostic test. The results of the diagnostics in addition the student’s preferences and goals will help us advise an appropriate test regimen.

In the first few months of the program, our tutors focus on imparting the core material—including math concepts, grammar rules, and reading skills—relevant to both the SAT and the ACT. After deciding which test better suits each student’s goals and abilities, our tutors will incorporate materials specific to the student's chosen test and develop a rigorous practice test schedule.

What are the differences between the SAT and the ACT?

The ACT and the SAT are both prominent college admissions tests. Both assess the educational development of high school students and the ability to perform college level work. However, the ACT and the SAT are different educational instruments with different emphases.

 

SAT

ACT

Scoring

400–1600 composite scale

1–36 composite scale

Test Length

3 hours + 50-minute optional essay

2 hours and 55 minutes + 40-minute optional essay

Reading

52 questions in 65 minutes

Passage-based reading comprehension

Informational graphics included

40 questions in 35 minutes

Passage-based reading comprehension

English

44 questions in 35 minutes

Passage-based testing of grammar, usage, syntax, rhetoric, & punctuation

Informational graphics included

75 questions in 45 minutes

Passage-based testing of grammar, usage, syntax, rhetoric, & punctuation

Math

No Calculator Section: 20 questions in 25 minutes (include 5 grid-in questions)

Calculator Section: 38 questions in 55 minutes (including 8 grid-in questions)

Trigonometry, radians, volumes, complex numbers, congruence & similarity, simple rational expressions, higher order equations, circle-related topics

Emphasis on algebra, problem solving and data analysis, and certain advanced math topics

60 questions in 60 minutes

Can used approved calculator

All multiple choice

Arithmetic, algebra I & II, planar and coordinate geometry, trigonometry and precalculus including functions, conic sections, combinations & permutations, logarithms, and matrices

Science

No Science Section

Science questions throughout the Reading, Writing & Language, and Math Tests

40 Questions in 35 Minutes

Interpretation and application of scientific data presented in tables, pie charts, bar graphs, scatter plots, etc.

Essay

50 Minutes

Optional

Students must analyze an authentic text and evaluate how well the author constructs an argument

3 scores:

  • Reading
  • Analysis
  • Writing

40 Minutes

Optional

Writing and composition, analysis and development of an argument

4 scores:

  • Ideas & Analysis
  • Development & Support
  • Organization
  • Language Use & Conventions

Other

No penalty for incorrect answers

No penalty for incorrect answers

 

How do SAT and ACT scores compare?

Concordance tools and tables are provided on the official SAT website.