Difference between sat and act

Difference between sat and act
If you are planning to enter college or university, or to transfer from one to another, you will need to complete an ACT or an SAT test. However, not many students know which one to choose, especially because both of them are accepted by US colleges.Both of them include such sections as reading, writing, and math. Their tests have an optional assignment on
essay writing and they don’t have any penalties for wrong answers.Both ACT and SAT are taken by millions of scholars and the geographic difference no longer exists (some time ago students on the coasts usually took SAT, while students in the midland – ACT).

That is why choosing one of the tests is a headache for all high school graduates in the US. Want to avoid that stress? Read below what the main difference between act and sat tests is. Actually, there are 11 of them!

What is the difference between sat and act?

Does the act have an essay? How much time I will have for the math section? All of these questions will be answered below!

So let’s move on to 11 main differences between the SAT and ACT.

    1. Time for each question

If you don’t like being in a hurry, you may prefer the SAT test, because it gives you more time to answer questions. For example, you will have 53 seconds on each question in the reading question during the ACT exam and 75 seconds during the SAT. For the math section, you will have 15 seconds more at SAT and 12 seconds more for the writing section.

Basically, the SAT gives more time in all sections, so if you are a slow reader or find it difficult to complete math tasks, the SAT may be a better option.

    1. Science section

When it comes to science, the SAT doesn’t have a section that is totally devoted to science, while ACT – does.

The ACT section for science consists of 40 questions that must be answered within 35 minutes. This section makes up one-fourth of the total score. So if you love science and are good at it, ACT is a better option.

However, it doesn’t mean that the SAT doesn’t have science questions at all. It’s just all of them can happen in different sections, including math, reading, and writing.

    1. No-calculator section

ACT test allows you to use a calculator on all of the math questions, while during an SAT exam you will have a no-calculator section, were using calculators is prohibited.

This subsection consists of 20 questions and takes 25 minutes to complete. However, questions of math sections were developed in such a way that anyone can answer them with a calculator, so basically there isn’t much difference between SAT and ACT when it comes to the no-calculator section.

    1. Math concepts

If you like algebra, it doesn’t matter whether you will choose Sat or act: both of them love this section and focus on it. However, ACT also pays huge attention to the geometry, which occupies around 40% of the Math section.

In addition, trigonometry accounts for around 8% of the ACT, while less than 5% of the SAT. On top of it, when completing the ACT test, you will come across such concepts as graphs of trigonometry functions, matrices, and logarithms. While Sat doesn’t have them at all.

    1. Math formulas

SAT tests come along with a diagram of various math formulas, which greatly simplifies the process. You can refer to it any time and get information on 12 formulas and three laws.

Even though all of them concern geometry (which doesn’t take much of the SAT total score), it is a real relief and can greatly save your time.

    1. Math importance in the final score

When you are comparing Sat vs act you may be interesting how important the math section is. While the ACT Math section takes one-fourth of the total score, the same section of the SAT test takes half of the score!

This means that math is more important for the SAT exam and you need to possess strong skills and knowledge not to risk your total result.

    1. Math answer choices

Another difference between these two tests and their math sections is that they have a different number of answer choices. During the ACT test, you’ll have to choose out of five options, while during SAT – out of four.

Keep in mind that you won’t lose any scores for giving wrong answers at both tests, which is a huge relief.

    1. Full answers in the Math section

If you prefer math questions that come along with multiple options, it is better to stick to ACT. SAT has a subsection with grid-ins, which means that you will need to write down a full answer yourself.

This subsection occupies 13 questions and accounts for almost 22% of the Math section.

    1. Reading questions

In case you are good at finding parts of the text that may answer questions, the SAT is a better fit. While there are absolutely no evidence-support questions in the ACT Reading section, there are plenty of them in the SAT exam.

    1. Chronological reading

If you pay careful attention to the SAT reading section, you will notice that all of the questions follow a chronological order. This means that those questions are given on the passages in order of their appearance.

However, during an ACT reading section, the questions appear randomly and it becomes harder to keep track of the questions and finding corresponding answers.

This makes SAT reading section simpler to answer and you won’t have to spend additional time on finding a passage the question was referring to.

  1. Content of an essay

The biggest important difference between these two tests is the essay section. In both cases, the essay section is optional. However, the content of such an essay differs depending on the test you are taking.

During the SAT essay section, you’ll have to read a passage and then analyze it, using arguments and evidence. This means that you won’t be able to provide your own opinion.

However, when working on an ACT essay you will not only analyze the passage but will also be able to share your opinion on it. That is why you need to decide what is simpler for you: to use facts or to put your own thoughts on paper.

Act vs sat: cost

If you thought that there may not be any differences left, you are wrong! Another difference between act and sat that we need to mention is their price.


  • Test without an essay – $39,50;
  • Test with an essay – $56,50;
  • Late registration – $25,00;
  • Standby testing – $49,00;
  • Testing outside the USA or Canada –$40,00;
  • Change of the center or test date – $24,00;
  • Additional report on scores – $12,00 per each.


  • Test without an essay – $43,00;
  • Test with an essay – $54,50;
  • Late registration – $28,00;
  • Standby testing – $46,00;
  • Testing outside the USA or Canada –$35,00 – $49,00;
  • Change of the center or test date –$28,00;
  • Additional report on scores – $11,25 per each.

Students, who don’t have enough funds to pay for the test, can contact their school authorities and get a payment exemption. However, it doesn’t cover any additional fees.

Sat or act: which one is simpler?

Now you already know the main difference between sat and act but if you still wonder which one is easier to complete, read our comparison below.

However, you need to remember that everything depends on what sections you find easy or difficult, so there is no common answer.

SAT may be simpler if:

  • You are a good reader, not a fast one. You understand the plot really well when you are not in a hurry. The SAT exam has shorter paragraphs and gives students more time for the reading section, which makes it a better option for slow readers;
  • Mental math is your superpower. In such a case you’ll manage the no-calculation section in no time, while other students will struggle with it;
  • You can find traps and read between the lines. Some time ago SAT was a really tricky test. Although it is a bit simpler now, it still has a few tricks that students may need to discover. That is why if you are skilled in those games, the SAT is a good choice.

ACT may be simpler if:

  • You do your work really fast. This means that you don’t have any trouble with tests on time and you read very fast. The ACT is a simpler test for those, who are able to finish it on time;
  • You love science and can interpret data properly. This means that you should be able to evaluate information from tables and charts. In case it is one of your strong skills, the ACT is more preferable;
  • You constantly use the calculator in the math class. If yes, try to avoid the SAT with its no-calculator section.

That’s all about the SAT, ACT and their differences. Make sure you think everything through before making a decision, because it may greatly influence your future!

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