ACT Vs SAT – Which Test is Right For You?
Practically every college in the USA requires ACT or SAT test scores. Most colleges accept either and you will find test locations for both all over the USA. If you have the time and money to take both, I would suggest you do that as you will probably do better on one of them. However, if you have to choose between the ACT and SAT exams, here are 8 differences between them that may help you decide.
1. The Cost
The SAT exam costs $45. The ACT exam costs $32 – so it is cheaper UNLESS you take the ACT with the optional writing test as it then costs $47 which makes it marginally more expensive.
2. Length of the Exams
The SAT consists of a 25 minute essay, six 25 minute sections, two 20 minute sections and a 10 minute multiple choice writing section. That means the whole test is 3 hours 45 minutes – not counting the 3 short breaks you get in between.
The ACT consists of 4 sections that total 2 hours and 55 minutes, but if you take the Writing Test as well that will add an extra 30 minutes to take you up to 3 hours and 25 minutes.
So, if you do not need to take the essay for ACT and you struggle to sit still for long periods – the ACT may suit you better.
3. What is being tested
The SAT tests reasoning and problem-solving ability; the ACT questions are much more straightforward and test your knowledge of high school work.
4. Subject Matter
The SAT covers mathematics, critical reading and writing. The ACT covers English, mathematics, reading and science. The ACT mathematics section includes a few trigonometry questions which the SAT does not. But the SAT has one math section which is not multiple choice – i.e. you have to actually calculate the answer. The English sections of the SAT put greater importance on a good vocabulary while the ACT focuses on grammar and punctuation. The essay is not optional for the SAT, so if you have poor writing skills and the colleges you are considering do not require the essay, opt for the ACT.
5. Number of Questions
If you struggle with time pressure, you need to know the SAT has only 140 questions compared to the 215 on the ACT.
The ACT only counts the answers you get correct, whereas the SAT deducts 1/4 of a point for all incorrect multiple choice questions.
The SAT allows you to eat a snack during your breaks; the ACT does not. So, if you need to get some sugar into your system during the exam, go for the SAT.
8. Your gender
Boys are more likely to do well on the SAT and girls on the ACT. That does not mean you will fit the pattern, of course.
Whichever test you end up choosing, be sure to take it early enough so that you have time to retake it if you need to improve your score.