ACT vs SAT : Choosing the Right Test

(by: Rashika Chugh Faculty:Quant)

The idea behind both tests is similar: to exhibit college readiness.Each Test measures students’ proficiency in various critical skill areas. There is no benefit to take one test over the other. It’s upto students’ skills, their strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s look at the following similarities & differences in both the tests to help you making a wiser decision.

Similarities :
Both the ACT & SAT are nationally recognized standardized tests and universally accepted by US colleges and awarding merit-based scholarships.
These are wildly popular tests.
Both contain core sections on Reading, Writing & Math.
Both include an optional essay section whose score is not counted toward your composite score.
No penalizing for incorrect answers. Both consider only correct answers to calculate your score.

Differences :

Key Pointers: ACT SAT
1.Test Duration 2 hours 55 minutes (without essay)
3 hours 40 minutes (with essay)
3 hours(without essay)
3 hours 50 minutes (with essay)
2. Order of Sections
  • English – 75 questions / 45 min
  • Math – 60 ques / 60 min
  • Reading – 40 ques /35 min
  • Science – 40 ques / 35 min
  • Essay(Optional) –1 ques/40 min
  • Reading – 52 questions / 65 min
  • Writing & Language– 44 ques / 35 min
  • Math (No Calculator)- 20 ques / 25 min [15 MCQs + 5 Grid-ins]*
  • Math (Yes Calculator) – 38 ques / 55 min [30 MCQs + 8 Grid-ins]
  • Essay (Optional) – 1 ques / 50  min
3. Mode of Test Computer based (Non US citizens)
Paper based (US citizens only)
  Paper based-For All
4.Calculator Policy Calculator is allowed on all math section. Calculator is allowed only on 4th Section.
5. Science Science constitutes one fourth of ACT score.

Not specific Science knowlege required.

No particular science section but questions related to science might be seen on other sections.
6.Math Content Arithmetic,Algebra,Higher Algebra,Geometry,Trigonometry,


Arithmetic,Algebra,Higher Algebra,Geometry,Trigonometry,

Data Analysis.

7. Formulas Reference Guide Not provided Provided on 1st page of both the math sections.
8.Grid-in Math Questions Only MCQs MCQs + Grid-ins.
*On Grid-ins, there are no answer choices.You’ve to fill in your own answers.
9. Reading 4 Reading Passages.
Evidence Support Questions Present.
5 Reading passages
Evidence Support Questions Absent
10.Essay Content Evaluating different Perspectives & Expressing your own opinion Comprehending the source text and evaluating the arguments in the passage.

It does not demand your opinion

11. Scoring Scored on a scale of 1-36 Scored on a scale of 400-1600

At Last, to take the final call – ACT or SAT ?

The best way to make your decision is take timed offline practice tests and compare your scores.
While taking the test, you’ve to observe the difficulty level of questions in each section and how you handle the pressure in both the tests.
These factors along with your scores help you determine a better fit test for you.