The ACT and SAT have long been the two primary standardized tests used in the United States for college admissions. It is always a topic of debate among high school students that which one is better – ACT vs SAT. These tests are important for colleges to evaluate student’s academic skills and potential. The ACT, short for American College Testing, and the SAT, known as the Scholastic Assessment Test, follow different approaches to evaluating students’ readiness for college-level work. While both tests share common goals, they differ in various aspects, such as test format, content, scoring, and regional popularity.
Do You Know?
The college board conducted the first SAT Digital Exam in March 2023.
The ACT consists of four sections—English, Math, Reading, and Science—along with an optional Writing section, whereas the SAT includes two main sections—Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math—along with an optional Essay section. Moreover, the ACT tends to emphasize content-based questions, while the SAT focuses on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Another difference lies in the scoring systems. The ACT uses a composite score based on the average of the four required sections, and the SAT provides separate scores for each section that can be combined or reported individually.
Regional preferences also come into play, with the ACT being more popular in the Midwest and South, while the SAT dominates in the Northeast and West Coast. Understanding these differences between the ACT vs SAT is important for students.
Overview of the SAT and ACT Exams
Before directly jumping into the insights of the ACT vs SAT, let’s now first have a brief overview of both exams. These will give you a clear picture of the comparison that is going to happen later in this blog post. Let’s look at the key details now.
|Full Name||Scholastic Assessment Test||American College Testing|
|Conducting Body||College Board||ACT Inc|
|Exam Duration||2 hours 14 minutes||2 hours and 55 minutes (without essay)3 hours and 35 minutes (with essay)|
|Usually For||UG courses in the US and Canada|
|Exam Mode||Online (Proctor-Based)||Online (Computer-Based)|
|Exam Fees||$60+$43 or INR 8525||$181.50 or INR 14,880 (without writing test)$206.50 or INR 16,930 (with writing)|
ACT vs SAT: Exam Format and Content Comparisons
Now that you have seen the key details regarding both examinations, let’s compare these exams on the basis of exam format now. Both exams follow somewhat similar exam patterns. The subjects are almost similar yet the number of questions and duration of each section are different.
The SAT exam pattern is as follows:
|Section||Number of Questions||Duration of the Section|
|Reading and Writing||54||64 minutes|
Now, it’s time to have a look at the ACT exam pattern.
|Section||Number of Questions||Duration of the Section|
|Writing (Optional)||1 Essay||40 minutes|
While there is no negative marking in the ACT and SAT exams, it gives the students the freedom of guessing. Well. Something is better than nothing! Now, we will be looking at the differences and similarities of the common sections of the SAT and the ACT exam.
The SAT and the ACT exam has two sections in common:
- Reading Section
- Math Section
ACT vs SAT: The Reading Section
The ACT and SAT are both standardized tests commonly used by colleges and universities as part of the admissions process in the United States and Canada. While they share some similarities in their reading sections, there are also notable differences. Let’s explore both the similarities and differences in the reading sections of the ACT and SAT:
|Both the ACT and SAT reading sections present multiple passages for students to read and answer questions.||The ACT typically includes four reading passages, while the SAT usually consists of five reading passages.|
|Both tests assess a student’s ability to comprehend and analyze written passages.||ACT passages are generally shorter, with each passage ranging from around 600 to 800 words. On the other hand, SAT passages tend to be longer, with an average length of 750 to 900 words.|
|Both exams have strict time limits for the reading section.||The ACT primarily focuses on direct questions that require students to locate specific information within the passage, while the SAT includes more inference-based questions.|
|The reading sections of both tests include passages from various subject areas.||The SAT places a greater emphasis on challenging vocabulary words. The ACT tends to focus more on overall comprehension rather than vocabulary specifically.|
ACT vs SAT: The Maths Section
The math sections of the ACT and SAT have both similarities and differences. Let’s explore them:
|Both the ACT and SAT math sections assess fundamental math concepts, including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis.||The ACT math section places a stronger emphasis on geometry and trigonometry, while the SAT math section includes more advanced algebra and data analysis.|
|Both tests present math questions in a multiple-choice format, where students choose the correct answer from a set of options.||The ACT math questions are generally more straightforward and focused on testing math skills and knowledge directly. The SAT math questions often involve more critical thinking, problem-solving, and real-world application of math concepts.|
|Both exams have strict time limits for the math section, requiring students to work efficiently and manage their time effectively.||The ACT math section covers a broader range of topics. In contrast, the SAT math section dives deeper into fewer topics but includes more complex and challenging questions.|
|Both tests have sections that allow calculator use and sections that do not. Students are required to bring an approved calculator and use it accordingly during the designated sections.||The SAT includes grid-in questions, where students must provide the numerical answer rather than selecting from multiple-choice options. The ACT, however, only utilizes multiple-choice questions in the math section.|
The comparison cannot be drawn on the other sections because they are missing in both exams. Earlier, both exams had an essay section but the College Board scrapped the essay section from the SAT.
ACT vs SAT: Exam Fee
You have already seen the general overview of the ACT and the SAT exam fees in the earlier sections. Now, we will see a complete breakdown of the exam fees for the ACT and SAT exams. We will also be looking at the additional fees if there’s anything like that.
ACT Exam Test Fees
The complete breakdown of the ACT exam fee structure for non-US residents has been given below. Although the exam fee is in USD, we have converted them into INR so that you don’t have to look for calculators.
|The Full ACT (no writing)||$181.50 or INR 14,880|
|The Full ACT (with writing)||$206.50|
|Test Option Change||$25|
|Score reports to 5th & 6th choice colleges||$16|
|Additional Score Reports||$18|
SAT Exam Test Fees
The complete breakdown of the SAT exam fee structure has been given below.
|SAT Registration Fees + Regional Fee (Outside US)||$60 or INR 4920 + $43 or INR 3526|
|Cancel Registration Fee||$25 or INR 2050|
|Late Cancel Fee||$35 or INR 2870|
Here are some additional registration fees that you might consider looking forward to.
|Test Centre Fee (Selected locations only)||$23 or INR 1887|
|Change Test Centre||$25 or INR 2051|
|Cancel Registration Fee||$25 INR 2051|
|Late Cancel Fee||$35 or INR 2871|
Please NOTE that
- Fee waivers are available! For details related to the fee waiver and other additional fees, please visit the official website.
- Waitlist registration is not currently available. Check back for information on potential waitlist availability in the future.
- Check the official website satsuite.collegeboard.org/ for some score-related services.
ACT vs SAT: Which is easier?
The difficulty level of the ACT and SAT exams can vary from student to student, as it largely depends on their own strengths and weaknesses. However, there are some general differences between the two tests that can be helpful to consider when deciding which one might be easier for you. Here are some key points to compare the ACT and SAT:
Content and Structure
- The ACT covers more subject areas, including English, math, reading, science, and an optional writing section, whereas the SAT focuses on reading, writing and language, math (with and without a calculator), and an optional essay.
- The ACT includes a dedicated science section, which requires interpreting scientific data and graphs, while the SAT does not have a specific science section.
- The SAT places a greater emphasis on vocabulary and reading comprehension, with more challenging vocabulary words and longer reading passages compared to the ACT.
- The ACT has a composite score ranging from 1 to 36, which is an average of the individual section scores. Each section is scored separately.
- The SAT has two main section scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. The total SAT score ranges from 400 to 1600, combining these two sections.
It’s important to note that neither test is objectively easier or harder than the other. Your personal strengths, weaknesses, and test-taking preferences should guide your decision. Consider taking practice tests for both the ACT and SAT to get a better sense of which test aligns more closely with your abilities.
ACT vs SAT: Which is the best for you?
Determining which test is the best, whether it’s the ACT or SAT, depends on several factors, including your individual strengths, preferences, and the requirements of the colleges or universities you plan to apply to. Here are some points to consider when choosing between the ACT and SAT:
- College Requirements: Research the admission requirements of the specific colleges or universities you’re interested in. Some colleges might accept the ACT scorecard while some might accept the SAT scorecard.
- Test Format: Review the content and structure of both tests. Consider which test aligns better with your strengths and weaknesses.
- Practice and Preparation: Take practice tests for both the ACT and SAT. This will give you a better understanding of the test formats, the types of questions asked, and your performance on each test.
- Timing and Pacing: Consider your ability to manage time during the test. The ACT has a faster pace with more questions to answer in a shorter time frame, while the SAT allows more time per question on average.
- Personal Preference: Ultimately, the “best” test for you is the one that you feel most comfortable and confident taking. Some students may find the ACT more suited to their abilities, while others may prefer the SAT.
Choosing the best test between the ACT and SAT is subjective and depends on various factors. It is crucial to evaluate your own situation, considering your strengths, preferences, and the admission requirements of the colleges or universities you intend to apply.
Summing It Up!
Deciding between the ACT vs SAT is not the same for everyone. Consider your strengths, what you like, and what colleges you want to apply. The ACT covers more subjects and is faster, while the SAT focuses on reading and writing. Choose the test that suits you best and lets you show your strengths. Both exams are considered to be the qualifying examination for undergraduate courses in the United States and Canada.
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ACT vs SAT: FAQs
It depends on the college. Some colleges may have a preference for one test over the other, so it’s important to check the specific requirements of the colleges you plan to apply to.
It depends on the college requirements. Some colleges may require or recommend the writing section, while others do not consider it in the admissions process. Check with the colleges you’re interested in to determine their policies.
Consider your strengths, preferences, and the content of each test. Take practice tests for both the ACT and SAT to see which one you feel more comfortable with and can prepare for effectively.
Yes, you can choose to send scores from both tests to colleges. This allows colleges to consider your best scores from each test.
Yes, you can retake both tests if you’re not satisfied with your initial scores. Colleges often consider your highest scores, so retaking the test can improve your chances of achieving better results.
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