SAT vs. ACT Comparison Chart

The SAT and ACT are two very different college entrance exams. Both are nationally administered and are used to help colleges evaluate applicants.

The SAT is essentially a three-part aptitude test (Reading, Math, Writing) while the ACT is more of an achievement test with four core sections (English, Math, Reading, Science) and an optional Writing section.

Most colleges will accept either or both exams.  A handful of colleges require one (typically the SAT).

The SAT vs. ACT chart below will help you understand the structure and content of both exams.

SAT
ACT
Length
3 hours, 45 minutes 3 hours, 25 minutes (includes optional 30-minute Writing Test)
Sections
10 Sections: 3 Critical Reading, 3 Math, 3 Writing (including Essay), 1 Experimental (not scored) 4 Sections (plus optional Writing Test): English, Math, Reading, Science, Writing
Subjects
Critical Reading
Math
Writing
English
Math
Reading
Science

Writing (optional)

Reading
Reading passages with questions pertaining to comprehension and sentence completion 4 passages, 10 questions per passage
Science
N/A
Science (analysis, knowledge, problem solving)
Math
Arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and algebra II Arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry
Essay
Required
Optional (final section)

Score Composition
1/3 Math
1/3 Reading
1/3 Writing
¼ English
¼ Math
¼ Reading
¼ Science
Scoring
Aggregate score 600 – 2400 based on total of 3 scores 200- 800 (Reading, Math, Writing)Score of 0-12 for Essay Composite score 1-36 based on average of 4 sections (English Math, Reading Science)Score 0-12 for Optional Essay.
Penalties
Penalties (typically ¼ point deducted) for wrong answers No penalties for incorrect answers
Sending Scores to Colleges Currently entire score history is sent. Starting with the March 2009 test date, students can select (“opt-in feature”) which will allow them to choose specific test date(s) – 3/09 and forward – and all scores from the selected test date(s) will be sent. Student decides which scores are sent
Additional Information

 

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