Figuring Out Which Test You Need To Take

Did you know that most colleges and universities only require you to submit either the ACT or the SAT? There are some major differences between the two tests.  Its important to consider which test will best showcase your strongest subjects.  The following charts summarize some of the most critical differences.


Test Snapshot

Features New SAT ACT
Widely accepted All U.S. colleges Almost all U.S. colleges
Major redesign 2016 SAT is based on the latest research on the skills colleges value most. No recent significant revisions.
Tests the vocabulary you’ll use Yes Yes
Everyday math formulas provided Yes No
Essay is optional Yes Yes
Penalty for guessing No No


Test Format

Structure and Timing New SAT ACT
Testing time 3 hours
+ 50-minute essay (optional)
2 hours 55 minutes
+ 40-minute essay (optional)
Structure 3 tests + optional essay 4 tests + optional writing test
Number of questions 154 215
Time per question 1 minute, 10 seconds 49 seconds
Score range Composite 400–1600 (SAT Essay: reported in 3 dimensions, each 2–8) Composite 1–36 (writing domain scores: 2–12)
Test length and timing Reading Test
65 minutes
52 questionsWriting and Language Test
35 minutes
44 questionsMath Test
80 minutes
58 questions
Reading Test
35 minutes
40 questionsEnglish Test
45 minutes
75 questionsMath Test
60 minutes
60 questionsScience Test
35 minutes
40 questions
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