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SAT v. ACT How to Choose

Less than twenty years ago, the debate about which test to take did not even exist. It simply depended on where you lived. In the Midwest, students took the ACT. If you lived on the coasts — or were applying to a highly selective college or university there — you took the SAT.

Now, this question about whether to take the SAT or the ACT is probably one of the most anxiety-provoking topics in college admissions. Every single college in the United States accepts either test, and swears they do not favor one over the other.


So which one should you take? What are the differences between them?

How is it structured? Reading: 52 questions in 65 min

Math: 20 questions in 25 min with no calculator & 38 questions in 55 min with a calculator

Writing & Language: 44 questions in 35 min

Optional Essay: 1 prompt, 50 min

English: 75 questions in 45 min

Math: 60 questions in 60 min (calculator allowed on all questions)

Reading: 40 questions in 35 min

Science: 40 questions in 35 min

Optional Writing: 1 prompt, 40 min

What are the questions like? Questions are structured to be relevant to what is studied at school and the real world. Many problems require multi-step problem solving and reasoning. Questions are straightforward, but pacing of the test is quicker (more questions to answer in allotted time).
How is it scored? Math: scale of 200 – 800


Reading & Writing: scale of 200-800


Composite SAT score: the sum of the two section scores and range from 400-1600.

English: scale of 1 – 36


Math: scale of 1 – 36


Reading: scale of 1 – 36


Science: scale of 1 – 36


Composite ACT score: the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges between 1-36

Do the questions get harder as you go along? Yes, the questions appear in order of difficulty for Math and Writing. In reading, questions progress chronologically. No, questions appear in random order.
What Math concepts are on it? Arithmetic


Algebra 1



(formulas provided)


Algebra 1

Algebra 2




(no formulas provided)

Is there Score Choice? Yes, you can choose which SAT score date(s) to submit to colleges Yes, you can choose which ACT score date(s) to submit to colleges
             When is it offered? Seven times per year: January








*As of 2017, August will be an option, and January will not.


Six times per year:







How do I register? www.collegeboard.com     www.act.org

You can take all of this information and try to guess which test you’d do better on. You can even look at your PSAT and PLAN scores (the precursor tests to the SAT and ACT, respectively) for an indication of where you might be stronger. However, the most thorough way to figure out whether you are better at the SAT or the ACT, is to take both tests. Then, you can compare the scores and have an accurate read of where you stand on each one. We offer FREE practice SATs and ACTs on many different dates throughout the year. Click here to see the schedule.

Otherwise, just pick a test and go with it. Preparation is the real key, regardless of which test you take.  Invest in your score. For many colleges, this one four hour test means almost as much as your GPA, which has taken years of hard work to achieve.

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