ACT vs SAT

One of the many questions our clients ask in the football recruiting process is about, "SAT vs. ACT – "Which one should I take?".


SAT or ACT? Do you know which test is right for you?

Colleges accept both tests equally, so the choice is up to you! The ACT and SAT generally test the same types of content. The biggest differences are that the ACT has a Science Test and the SAT has one Math section for which you cannot use a calculator.

Here's what you need to know to compare the exams.

 

SAT

ACT

Why Take It

Colleges use SAT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.

Colleges use ACT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.

Test Structure

  • Reading

  • Writing & Language

  • Math

  • Essay (Optional)

  • English

  • Math

  • Reading

  • Science Reasoning

Essay (Optional)

Length

  • 3 hours (without essay)

  • 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)

  • 2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)

  • 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)

Reading

5 reading passages

4 reading passages

Science

None

1 science section testing your critical thinking skills (not your specific science knowledge)

Math

Covers:
  • Arithmetic

  • Algebra I & II

  • Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis

Covers:
  • Arithmetic

  • Algebra I & II

  • Geometry and Trigonometry

Calculator Policy

Some math questions don't allow you to use a calculator.

You can use a calculator on all math questions.

Essays

Optional. The essay will test your comprehension of a source text.

Optional. The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.

How It's Scored

Scored on a scale of 400–1600

Scored on a scale of 1–36

Insight from The Princeton Review

10 THINGS EVERY FAMILY SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ACT & SAT

  • 1. Neither the SAT nor the ACT is "easier" or "harder" than the other, but different types of students usually do much better on one than they do on the other.
  • 2. Take both tests as early as possible to find the right fit" and to give you as much time for tutoring and additional exams.
  • 3. Choose the test you scored the highest on and then work to improve that score.
  • 4. After you choose the "right" test, you must plan to take it multiple times. For football recruits you should have multiple scores by October of your senior year.
  • 5. Combining scores – If you have a really high Math score on Test 1 and high Reading score on Test 2, you can combine those scores
  • 6. Generally speaking if you are:
    • Strong Math / Weak Reading = ACT
    • Strong Reading / Weak Math = SAT
  • 7. Scoring Differences
    • ACT has no penalty for wrong answers so don't leave any questions blank.
    • SAT has a ¼ point deduction for all wrong answers, so a "rule of thumb" is if you can narrow answers to a 50/50 choice – pick one. If you have no clue. skip it.
  • 8. Colleges will accept either the ACT or the SAT. They are more concerned with high scores!
  • 9. ACT has a Science section, which really is more about using charts and graphs properly (so don't' stress). SAT does not.
  • 10. SAT has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary.