The two tests are drastically different and play to different academic strengths. While most students used to opt for the SAT, the ACT is becoming increasingly more popular throughout the country. All schools are now accepting the ACT in place of the SAT, so you can submit one test or both when applying, but now is the most important time to determine which test is more suitable for you.

Topics Tested

While both tests serve the same general purpose as college entrance exams, there are major differences between the two tests and it is often the case that students will perform far better on one test than the other.

   The topics covered on the two tests are similar:

·         SAT has three sections (Reading, Math, and Writing)

·         ACT has four (English, Math, Reading, and Science) 

The Math sections are the most similar in that they each test students’ skills in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and advanced topics. Although, the advanced topics on the ACT are a little more similar to those tested in high school math classes (logarithms, trigonometry and more…)

The English section on the ACT and the Writing section on the SAT are very similar in that they both test basic grammar skills, but whereas the SAT has three question types, the ACT only has one. The Reading section on the SAT has both critical reading questions and sentence completion questions that test a student’s knowledge of advanced vocabulary; however, the Reading section on the ACT is comprised of four critical reading passages, so is sometimes a better option for students who have not studied vocabulary in school.

The Science section does not actually test students’ knowledge of science, but instead focuses on a student’s ability to read and interpret graphs and charts.




The scores on the exams are vastly different: the SAT is out of a total of 1600 points and the ACT is out of a maximum of 36 points. Math section of the SAT is worth 800 points and English Section is worth 800 points and the totals for each section are added together to give the overall score. Each section of the ACT is out of 36 points and the total score for each section is averaged to give the composite score for the exam.

Test Format
Structure and TimingSATACT
Testing time 3 hours
+ 50-minute essay (optional)
2 hours 55 minutes
+ 40-minute essay (optional)
Structure 3 tests + optional essay 4 tests + optional writing test
Number of questions 154 215
Time per question 1 minute, 10 seconds 49 seconds
Score range Composite 400–1600 (SAT Essay: reported in 3 dimensions, each 2–8) Composite 1–36 (writing domain scores: 2–12)
Test length and timing

Reading Test
65 minutes
52 questions

Writing and Language Test
35 minutes
44 questions

Math Test
80 minutes
58 questions

Reading Test
35 minutes
40 questions

English Test
45 minutes
75 questions

Math Test
60 minutes
60 questions

Science Test
35 minutes
40 questions

How to Choose

The best way for a student to decide which test is right for her is really to take a practice test in each and compare starting scores. If one score is significantly better than the other, it is probably wise to just focus your efforts on that test. If the scores are comparable, it might not be a bad idea to prep for both since they are given at different times throughout the year. In the winter and spring, the SAT is given in Mar, May, June, Aug, Oct, Nov and Dec and the ACT is given in February (not in all locations), April, and June., so there are several opportunities for a student to take each exam multiple times.


Stay-Ahead™ Reading

  • Novice (6th Grade)
  • Intermediate (7th Grade)
  • Proficient (8th Grade)
  • Advanced (9th Grade)
  • Superior (10th Grade)

Stay-Ahead™ Writing

  • Novice (6th Grade)
  • Intermediate (7th Grade)
  • Proficient (8th Grade)
  • Advanced (9th Grade)
  • Superior (10th Grade)

Stay-Ahead™ Mathematics

  • Mathematics Core
  • Pre-Algebra
  • Algebra 1
  • Algebra 2
  • Geometry

Standardized Tests

  • SAT
  • PSAT
  • DukeTIP SAT
2011 SAT vs ACT. SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product. ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc. PSAT/NMSQT is a trademark jointly owned by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which were not involved in the production of, and do not endorse, this product. None of the trademark holders are affiliated with Ramana Coaching Center or this website.
Powered by Joomla 1.7 Templates