The SAT vs the ACT: What’s the Difference?

SAT vs ACT

A lot of Ladder Method parents call our offices with just this question.  Its a good question.  And, the answer is not the same as it once was.

What is the difference between the ACT and the SAT standardized tests?

The ACT and the SAT are both standardized tests that the colleges use in evaluating a student during the college application process.

How should students best prepare and decide which test to take?

We often suggest to parents that they have their student take both diagnostics to determine which test their child fairs better at.

Is there a preferred test?

Years ago, the colleges preferred the SAT and some colleges did NOT even look at the ACT.  But, that has changed.  All colleges now accept the ACT.

SAT ACT
Which colleges accept it? All colleges All colleges
Test Format Reading
Writing/Language
Math
– without calculator
-with calculatorEssay
English/Grammar
Math
Reading
Science
Essay
Total Length 3 hours (+50 min essay) 2 hours 55 min (+40 min essay)
English/ Language 44 questions (35 min) 75 questions (45 min)
Reading 5 passages with 52 total questions (65 min) 4 passages with 40 total questions (35 min)
Math 1 section without calculator with 20 questions (25 min)1 section with calculator with 38 questions  (55 min)

Covers:

Arithmetic
Algebra I & II
Geometry & Trigonometry
Data Analysis

60 questions (60 min)

Covers:

Arithmetic
Algebra I & II
Geometry & Trigonometry

Calculator allowed on all question

Science None 7 passages with 40 total questions (35 min)Tests critical thinking skills and ability to read graphs (no scientific knowledge required)
Essay (50 minutes)Students must read a piece of writing and write an essay analyzing the argument and language used in the passage. (40 minutes)Students must take a position on a complex issue and write an argumentative essay supporting their views.
Score Range 400-1600 1-36
Guessing penalty None None

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