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Difference between the ACT and SAT

By SchoolMyKids Counsellor|3 - 4 mins read| May 10, 2018

A lot of High School students or their parents ask us a lot of question on ACT and SAT – Is the ACT or SAT more difficult? Is ACT easier than SAT? What type of test is the SAT and ACT? What does the ACT and SAT stand for? In this article our expert has compared ACT vs SAT. All US colleges accept scores from either the ACT or SAT for admission to their courses, one should pick the test on which they can perform better.

There are differences between the SAT and ACT that can make one or the other legitimately easier or harder for test takers. So how do you know whether the SAT or ACT is easier for you? Keep reading to learn the eight key factors that’ll help you determine whether the ACT or SAT is easier.

The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities. The ACT has up to 5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test. The SAT has only 3 components: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test.

Comparison SAT Vs ACT

The comparison below between ACT and SAT helps making the choice easier

About SAT is a reasoning test ACT is a content based test.
Test Format
  • Critical Reading: 2, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section;
  • Math: 2, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section;
  • Writing: 1, 25-min essay, 1, 25-min section, and 1, 10-min section
  • English: 1, 45-min section;
  • Math: 1, 60-min section;
  • Reading: 1, 35-min section;
  • Science: 1, 35-min section;
  • Writing: 1, 30-min essay (optional)
Topics Covered Content covered is reading, vocabulary, grammar & usage, writing, and math. The questions are often tricky and can be phrased in ways that make them difficult to decipher Content covered is grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional). The questions are straightforward and may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher.
Score Math, Critical Reading, and Writing scores will each range between 200-800; total SAT score ranges between 600-2400 English, Math, Reading, and Science scores will each range between 1-36. Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges between 1-36
Exam Pattern – Negative Marketing There is a penalty for wrong answer and you lose ¼ of a point for incorrect answers (except on the grid-in math questions) There is no penalty for wrong answers
Difficulty Level
  • The questions increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section
  • The difficulty levels of the questions is random
Popular with
  • The SAT test is popular with private schools and schools on the east and west coasts; however, every four-year college in the US accepts SAT scores
  • The ACT test is popular with public schools and schools in the Midwest and south; however, every four-year college in the US accepts ACT scores
Offered in
  • It is offered seven times per year: January, March or April, May, June, October, November, December and registration deadline is typically about four weeks before the test date.
  • It is offered six times per year: February, April, June, September, October, December (note that some states offer the ACT as part of their state testing requirements; these tests are not administered on the national test dates) and the registration deadline is typically about five to six weeks before the test date
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Last Updated: Thu May 10 2018

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