Difference Between ACT And SAT Explained

Confused between ACT and SAT? Here are the key difference between ACT and SAT Test to help you in choosing the right test. Along with a few points on which one of the two, ACT and SAT is the easier test, and guidelines for preparation of ACT and SAT.

Updated by Anchal S on 15th October 2020

The SAT and the ACT are the two broadly institutionalized tests that students are required to take for permission to a US school/college. Both the tests measure student’s capability in different basic aptitude territories, for example, critical thinking and reading perception—that are fundamental for school achievement.

The ACT stands for American College Testing, on the other hand, SAT means Scholastic Aptitude Test, both the exams are institutionalized which means it is made as a part of the college application process.

All schools expect students to take either the SAT or the ACT and present their scores to their prospective colleges. There is no bit of leeway of stepping through one test over another, so it is imperative to pick the test that is best for you, regardless of whether you are a residential US student or an international understudy.

A few students pick both to step through the two examinations, given that they spread somewhat various things, however, this isn't generally a practical alternative for individuals given time and money related limitations.

The SAT was redesigned in 2016, the new SAT stresses more importance on logic and reasoning. The reading and composing questions are presently altogether comprehension-based so students can demonstrate a deeper understanding of the topics in a section and the math segment incorporates increasingly pragmatic practical situations and issues that require different approaches.

Read More - What is the ACT?What is the SAT?

ACT or SAT? Which Is Better?

The greatest contrast between these two tests is that the SAT's areas are Reading, Math, and Writing and Language, while the ACT's segments are English, Math, Reading, and Logical Reasoning. The two tests likewise have a discretionary Essay area, which a few schools expect you to take and others don't.

Actually, there’s another option—taking both the SAT and the ACT—and there are some definite benefits that come with choosing both.

The customary counsel has been that the ACT is increasingly worried about your comprehension of explicit substance, while the SAT is progressively about thinking, rationale, and critical thinking.

In any case, the two tests have been patched up ordinarily, and in the most present-day emphasis of these tests, this division isn't really valid; there are a bigger number of shared characteristics in what the tests spread than there are contrasts. The most current adaptations of the test have likewise expelled another distinction, specifically the old SAT's punishment for wrong answers, which used to influence the SAT methodologies specialists suggested for understudies.

Indeed, even the ACT's exceptional Science Reasoning segment doesn't expect you to have learned explicit science facts. Or maybe, it tests the sort of thinking aptitudes that are utilized in the practice of science, and utilizes logical settings to test your critical thinking capacities. The substance is to some degree not quite the same as that of the SAT, yet both location comparative abilities.

While the ACT and SAT are commonly truly comparative in what they test, they once in a while pose various kinds of inquiries or have various necessities for their answers.

For instance, the ACT spending plans less time per question than the ACT. A portion of the SAT math addresses must be replied without an adding machine, while an adding machine might be utilized on the majority of the ACT math questions. The discretionary article segments for each test request somewhat various methodologies. The correlations of all the best ACT and SAT courses are connected below to enable you to begin.

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Differences between ACT vs SAT are as follows:-

  • SAT is offered by the non-profit College Board which provides advanced placement courses and other testing services too, while non-profit organization ACT has a lesser scope and it focuses mainly on tests.

  • SAT is a 3 hours long test. If anyone chooses an essay then the test time will be 3 hours 50 minutes. On the other hand, the ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes long test. When the essay is included then the test time will be 3 hours and 35 minutes long.

  • Each section of the SAT is scored on a 200 to 800 scale. The total score will be the sum of the number scored in all sections. The highest SAT score can be in 1600. The essay section has a separate score list. In ACT each section is measured on a 1-36 point scale. The total ACT score will be the average of points scored in all four sections. The final score is also measured on a 1-36 point scale. If someone chooses to take a writing test then it will have a separate score.

  • The SAT features 154 questions vs. 215 for the ACT. Broken down by test components, the SAT has a reading test that takes 65 minutes, 35-minute writing and language test, and an 80-minute math section. The ACT consists of a 35-minute reading test, a 45-minute English test, a 60-minute math section, and a 35-minute science test.

  • The ACT contains a separate section for science-based questions, while the SAT does not include an independent section for science, but science questions are included throughout the exam in different sections.

    We’ve broken down ACT vs SAT better the using tables,

    ACT Vs SAT  
    Factors ACT SAT
    Test Structure    





    Reasoning Essay (Optional)


    Writing & Language

    Math (No Calc)

    Math (With Calc)

    Essay (Optional)

    Duration Of Test 

    2 hrs, 55 mins

    3 hrs, 40 mins (with essay)

    3 hrs

    3 hrs 50 mins (Essay)

    Essay Type Optional, this comprehension analyses how you evaluate and analyze complex issues. Optional, this essay will test your comprehension ability.
    Scoring Range 1-36 400-1600

Have you ever wondered, what is the required lowest SAT score?

Another significant contrast has to do with science. While the ACT contains an area altogether dedicated to science, the SAT does not.

That being stated, the SAT's logical ideas—only not through a different Science area. n the SAT, you'll every so often run over inquiries dealing with scientific passages, data, and diagrams on the Reading, Writing, and Math segments.

Apart from the test structure nuances, there are also some cost differences to be addressed as well, 

Comparison of the general cost of both the ACT and SAT exams




Test excluding essay



Test including essay



Late registration fees



Waitlist testing



International testing



Test date change



The infographic below shows the number of questions and the time allotment for each section of the ACT and SAT. The above breakdown of time and no of questions will give you a clear insight into the duration of each section in both SAT and ACTs.

the number of questions and the time allotment for each sections of ACT test and SAT test.

With the help of this prepare your mock test sessions and practice until you ace the split of time and manage to attend all the questions effectively.

Which Test Is The Hardest ACT Or SAT?

There is no set in stone response to this, and the appropriate responses you may get from different students can vary.

On the off chance that you've begun preparing early and your objective schools don't expect you to present each score from the two tests, it might merit planning for and taking both the SAT and ACT.

If that got you more confused, read our guide on  Which is easier? the SAT or the ACT? 

If you extremely just have room schedule-wise to think about for one, I'd suggest taking a full-length, planned, practice test for the two tests to enable you to choose which one to take. From this, you may discover that you incline toward one test's structure and substance more than the other.

When Is The Right Time To Take An ACT Or SAT Test?

The SAT is offered multiple times every year, in March or April, May, June, August, October, November, and December. Different states offer the SAT as a major aspect of standard state testing prerequisites. In these cases, they are not managed on the national test dates.

In the final analysis, there’s one sure-fire way to know which test is better: take practice tests. Students may not embrace the proposition of giving up a weekend day each to a practice SAT and ACT, but that investment of time is beggared by the potential time-savings that results from finding the right test.

Additionally, students are the ones who are doing all the heavy lifting here – attending sessions, doing homework, and taking practice tests – so their feedback is essential to the process. In many cases, scores on the tests may be equivalent but student's preferences may not be. Armed with the experience of having taken the tests, the students themselves are often in the best position to decide which test is better – or sometimes which is the lesser of two evils!

The ACT is additionally offered seven times each year. Checkout for ACT dates here. anyway, the particular months vary somewhat from the SAT: February, April, June, July, September, October, and December.

For the SAT, the enlistment is normally a month preceding the test date, which gives you plenty of time to plan regardless of whether you start about the time you register. Correspondingly, the ACT enrollment due date is around 5 a month and a half preceding the test date.

Guidelines For ACT and SAT Test Preparation

Now, you have decided which test is more applicable to you. So let’s further see, how should you prepare for the ACT and SATs? 

1. Analysis:

Perform an in-depth analysis of the mock tests and try to understand the pattern of questions that you have difficulty in answering.

Identify topics that you have to review and test habits that you have to shed, such as hurrying or overthinking.

2. Plan of Action:

Now that you know about your strengths and weaknesses, construct a plan of action to conquer your poor test propensities. 

For instance, if you will, in general, second-guess your answers, consider how you can turn out to be progressively certain about your underlying answer decisions, and practice that as you audit any academic topics.

3. Put Resources To best Use:

To execute your plan of action, you can either work with an experienced educator/tutor or exploit free resources to help you gain the required knowledge and skills to ace the section you underperform. Your school or neighborhood library may have test survey classes, prep books, or free practice test sessions to enable you to improve your score.

4. Repeat The process:

In the final step, make a point to screen your advancement and change your procedures to get you to the score you need. Take another mock test and break down how you performed compared to the last time. The sections where you showed improvement and the areas of improvement.

Repeat the process of analysis and action, with the help of suitable resources until you reach the desired score in your mock test. 

You may want to read a few articles on different sections of the SAT with tips to perform them,

Is It Advisable To Take Mock Tests For Both ACT And SAT?

In the final examination, there's one certain flame approach to realize which test is better: take practice tests. Students may not grasp the suggestion of allowing up to an end of the weekday each to a training SAT and ACT, yet that speculation of time is destitute by the potential time-reserve funds that outcomes from finding the correct test. Also, students are the ones who are doing all the truly difficult work here – going to sessions, doing schoolwork, and taking practice tests – so their criticism is fundamental to the procedure. By and large, scores on the tests might be proportional however student inclinations may not be furnished with the experience of having stepped through the exams, the students themselves are regularly in the best position to choose which test is better – or now and then which is the lesser of two evils.


Ideally, you now have a better comprehension of what each test is, the manner by how the structure is, where they differ, how to pick the one you need to take, and how to analyze your scores which can help you better with choosing ACT or SAT. When you choose which test you're going to take, ensure you're using the best investigation assets to boost your score. 

Good Luck!