Skip to main content

The results of standardized tests have quite an influence on the decisions the universities and colleges make in relation to student admissions. Two major test types are the ACT and the SAT. If you are thinking of enrolling in university, chances are you will have to take one of the tests. But, which one should you? What is the ACT? What is the difference between SAT and ACT? Well, let’s go through the two tests, discuss their purpose, length, and structure. Although both of them are widely accepted, let’s find out which one is better for you.

What Is the ACT?

The American College Test (ACT) is a standardized test designed for high school graduates looking to enroll in a university. ACT scores are accepted by U.S. colleges and universities around the country, including Ivy League schools. This test contains curriculum-based questions related to high school courses and what the students have learned in high school. According to reports, the number of students who took the ACT in 2020 was almost 1.67 million.

There are seven dates per year when you can sit for the ACT. For more information on the exact dates and deadlines, visit the ACT website.

Why take the ACT?

The ACT is a valuable test because you can use the scores as part of your college application. Strong ACT scores can help boost your application and set you apart from the other candidates. Moreover, there are many scholarships that you can qualify for with a good ACT score.

ACT test structure

The ACT examines the students’ knowledge in five sections: English, mathematics, reading, science, and writing. The first four sections are mandatory and include multiple-choice questions, whereas the writing one is optional.

  • The English section includes 75 questions.
  • The mathematics section includes 60 questions.
  • The reading section includes 40 questions.
  • The science section includes 40 questions.

Each mandatory section in the ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36 points. Your final score is calculated as the average of the four sections. In case you take the optional writing part, its score is not added to your final one but will be factored into the section of English since i. The writing section uses a scale of 2 to 12 points.

How long is the ACT test?


The ACT test is around 3 hours and 30 minutes long, the breaks included. The English section has a 45 minutes time limit, mathematics has 60 minutes, the reading and science sections have 35 minutes each.

What Is the SAT?

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is another standardized test intended for students looking to continue studies in an undergraduate program. Over 4000 universities and colleges in the United States use students’ SAT scores to assist in their admissions decisions. In addition to that, many universities in 85 other countries across the world accept SAT as well. In 2020, nearly 2.2 million students took the SAT.

The College Board offers seven dates per year when you can register and sit for the SAT. For more information on the upcoming dates and deadlines, visit the CollegeBoard website.

Why take the SAT?

As a standardized test, the SAT is used to measure how prepared you are for college. This way, the scores provide the admissions committee with information on how good of a fit you are for their program. If you have a good SAT score, then you might be eligible to not only get accepted into a university but to also secure a merit-based scholarship.

SAT test structure

The SAT evaluates students’ fundamental school knowledge by testing them in two main sections:

  1. Evidence-based reading and writing
  2. Mathematics

The SAT used to include a section dedicated to essay writing, but in June of 2021, the College Board decided to remove it.

  • The reading section consists of 52 questions.
  • The writing section consists of 44 questions.
  • The math section consists of 58 questions (20 questions without a calculator and 38 questions with).

The maximum number of points possible is 1600, with each of the two sections offering a score of 200 points minimum and 800 points maximum.

How long is the SAT test?

The SAT is around 3 hours and 15 minutes long, including the breaks. The reading and writing section has a 100 minutes time limit, 65 of them are dedicated to evidence-based reading, and the other 35 minutes are for writing. On the other hand, mathematics has 80 minutes, 55 of them are for the section with the calculator, and 25 without it.

What Is the Difference Between SAT and ACT?

When discussing ACT vs. SAT, we notice that the major differences between the two tests are related to material and timing.

The overall content is similar in some aspects as both tests have sections dedicated to the English language and mathematics. However, contrary to the SAT, the ACT also consists of a science section and  the optional essay.

Then, when comparing the timing between the two, we notice that the ACT is more fast-paced, as it gives students an average of 50 seconds per question.

  • The English section offers 36 seconds per question.
  • The mathematics section offers 1 minute per question.
  • The reading section offers 52 seconds per question.
  • The science section offers 52 seconds per question.

On the other hand, for the SAT you have approximately 1 minute and 10 seconds per question.

  • The reading part gives 75 seconds per question.
  • The writing and language part gives 48 seconds per question.
  • The mathematics section with no calculator gives 75 seconds per question.
  • The mathematics section with a calculator gives 87 seconds per question.

Which Is Easier ACT or SAT?


Neither one is easier than the other. Both the SAT and ACT have some elements that seem harder or easier when compared to the other. Let’s say you struggle to do math without a calculator. In that case, the SAT might seem harder for you. However, the ACT includes questions about logarithms and matrices, which the SAT does not use. It all depends on the work you put in to prepare for the tests and what your strengths are.

Should I Take the ACT or SAT?

Now that you know more about the two tests, their differences and similarities, the question remains: which test should you take? Well, we would advise you to try some practice tests for the ACT and SAT and see which one gives you a higher chance of getting better results.

Both types of standardized tests are excellent choices, and you can’t go wrong with your pick. Remember that no university will value one more than the other, so whichever you prefer, go for it!



  • Personalized Guidance
    Our admission officers guide you to the right programs.
  • Timely Responses
    Swift and informative communication for a stress-free admission journey.
  • Exclusive Insights
    Access exclusive updates, events, and opportunities at BAU.