Which test should you take for college admissions? The SAT or the ACT?

Which test should you take for college admissions? The SAT or the ACT?

Here’s our guide to help you decide which exam to choose.

Both tests are required for university admissions around the world although they tend to focus on slightly different areas.

The two tests might look similar at first, but they do have some differences you should know about.

Getting to know what sets the two tests apart from each other will help you identify the right choice for you.

First, let’s talk about a few similarities.

Both exams test you upon pretty much the same concepts.

These two tests are recognized internationally and hold the same importance.

Both tests have a reading section, a math section, and a writing section.


Here are a few key differences between the SAT and the ACT.


The main difference that makes ACT stand out is that it has a SCIENCE SECTION. You’ll find it quite similar to the science passages you’ve been dealing with in the SAT.   In the ACT, there is a whole new section dedicated to science. This section tests you upon your experimental analysis skills, data interpretation skills, and time management skills.



       Calculator use:

In the SAT, the math section is divided into two parts: calculator and no calculator. You get 58 questions in total.  The use of calculator is strictly forbidden while attempting the no calculator section. While in the ACT, you get a single math section. You are allowed to make use of the calculator throughout the MATH SECTION. This is a great advantage for students with weak mental math skills.

Type of questions:

In the act, all questions are multiple choice questions. You won’t find any GRID IN questions here like you normally would in the SAT.

      Formula Sheet:

SAT provides a formula sheet at the start of each math section whereas the ACT doesn’t. It’s better to have a firm grip on all the formulas that get tested if you plan to give the ACT.



Ordered Situation:

In the SAT, the questions associated with each passage are in an ordered situation.

While in the ACT, the questions aren’t in an ordered situation, but that doesn’t mean it gets tough.

With the right strategies you can ace it just like you ace every other section on the ACT.


       Evidence Based Questions:

Evidence Based questions are an important part of SAT reading, but such questions are nowhere to be found in the ACT. If you’re good at attempting the evidence questions, SAT might be the right choice for you as these questions make up about 40 percent of the whole reading section.

       Number of passages:

The SAT reading section consists of 5 passages with a total of 52 questions. These 52 questions are divided among these 5 passages. Time allowed for the SAT reading section is 65 minutes.

The ACT reading section slightly differs from the SAT reading section in terms of number of passages, amount of questions , and total time.

It consists of 4 passages with a total of 40 questions. These 40 questions are divided among these 4 passages. Time allowed for the ACT reading section is 35 minutes.




You get less time per QUESTION in ACT.

For example, the allotted time to solve a question in the SAT reading section is 75 seconds. The time allowed to solve a question on the ACT reading section is 53 seconds.

The good news is that the questions are developed in such a way, it won’t take much of your time. If you feel like it’s going to take around 3- 4 minutes, you’re probably doing it the wrong way.



Both tests have a different scoring scale.

SAT scores range from 400 to 1600 points.

ACT score range from 1 to 36 points.

Negative marking isn’t involved in these tests either.


Should I take the SAT or the ACT?  

This might be one of the questions I get asked the most.

Well, nobody can know it better than you.

But here are a few things that can help you identify the right thing for you.

  1. TAKE A DIAGNOSIS TEST:  taking a PSAT and PreACT will definitely help you identify which test works well in your case.
  2. If you score well in science subjects, ACT might be easier for you.
  3. Time management is essential during both tests, but if you are unable to manage time that well, SAT might be a better option for you. You get more time per question in the SAT.
  4. Take a look at the college requirements you’re planning to apply for in the future. A few colleges prefer SAT over ACT and vice versa.