05 Jul 2022 | ACT Vs SAT
ACT Vs SAT: Choosing the Right College Entrance Exam
In the journey toward higher education, one pivotal decision stands out: choosing between the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. These standardized tests play a significant role in college admissions, assessing students' knowledge and readiness for higher learning. With colleges accepting both ACT and SAT scores, it's crucial to understand the differences and similarities between the two. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the ins and outs of the ACT vs SAT dilemma, providing insights, tips, and advice to help you make an informed choice for your academic future.
It is a dream of every student to study abroad, owing to the vast opportunities, innovative technologies, diverse culture, and global exposure. If you are an undergraduate student, you must have heard of the ACT and SATs as these are two popular tests UG applicants take when they wish to go abroad for studies.
For decades ACT and SAT have rivaled each other; both being standardized tests but very different in their format and content. SAT was originally more of a psychological test that assessed a student's aptitude for learning. On the other hand, ACT is more like a placement test that is used as an indicator of your academic preparation and achievement.
The natural question that would come to your mind now is whether one test is better than the other, do you need to take both tests, which test has more influence in getting admissions, is one more suited for arts and the other more for technical courses, etc. We will answer all these questions and take you through the format, fees, and other details of both these tests.
What is ACT
ACT stands for American College Testing and is a standardized test for those seeking admission to UG schools in the USA, Canada, Australia, and a few other countries. The test is administered by ACT Inc.
- ACT exam evaluates the mathematical, written, scientific, and verbal skills of the applicant.
- The ACT measures the readiness of high school students for college and provides a common data point for colleges to compare all applicants.
- It was a pencil and paper test having multiple choice type questions. Since 2018, ACT has become a computerized test for those living outside of the US.
- The test duration is 2 hours 55 minutes if you are not taking the optional writing section and 3 hours 35 minutes if you opt for the writing section.
- ACT is conducted seven times a year in the months of February, April, June, July, August, September, and October.
- There is no age or grade requirement for taking the ACT.
- The importance of ACT scores varies from college to college.
SAT or Scholastic Assessment Test is a standardized admission test for many undergraduate colleges across the globe; especially in the American and Canadian universities.
- It is a pencil and paper multiple-choice test administered by the College Board (a non-profit US entity) on select dates.
- You can take the SAT as many times as you want and colleges will consider your highest or super-score for admissions.
- SAT is a three-hour test (if you are not appearing for the essay section) or three hours fifty minutes test (if you are appearing for the essay section) which evaluates the mathematical reasoning and language skills of the candidate.
- It has two sections; one is mathematics and the other is evidence-based reading and writing.
- The SAT scores range from 400 to 1600 and there is no penalty for a wrong answer.
- SAT is an important metric for UG universities and colleges to measure the readiness of a high school student.
- SAT exams are held five times a year in the months of March, May, August, October, and December.
ACT Vs SAT: Understanding the Basics
Before delving into the details, let's grasp the foundational disparities between the ACT and SAT exams. The ACT (American College Testing) and SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) serve the same purpose – evaluating students' readiness for college. However, their structures, content, and scoring mechanisms diverge, catering to distinct learning styles.
Test Format and Structure: The ACT consists of four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science, with an optional Writing section. Each section is time-bound, requiring students to manage their time efficiently. On the other hand, the SAT comprises Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW), Math, and an optional Essay. The SAT focuses on critical thinking, problem-solving, and analyzing skills.
Content Breakdown: In the ACT, the English section evaluates grammar and usage, while the Math section covers algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. The Reading section assesses comprehension, and the Science section gauges scientific reasoning. The optional Writing section demands an essay response. Meanwhile, the SAT emphasizes evidence-based reading, writing, and math skills, with an optional Essay requiring students to analyze a provided text.
Scoring System: The scoring systems for the two tests vary. The ACT awards a composite score from 1 to 36, calculated by averaging the scores of all four mandatory sections. The optional Writing section receives a separate score. Conversely, the SAT's total score ranges from 400 to 1600, combining the EBRW and Math scores, with the optional Essay graded separately.
Time Constraints: Time management is pivotal in both tests. The ACT grants less time per question, making it essential to work swiftly. The SAT, while offering more time per question, poses complex problems that require critical analysis. Choosing the right test depends on your comfort with time pressure and problem-solving.
Application Fees of ACT
The full ACT charge without the writing section is USD 63 which includes reports for the candidate, for the candidate's high school, and up to four colleges (if you provide the codes when you register.)
- Full ACT (With writing section) - It is USD 88 and similar to full ACT without writing section in terms of reports.
- Change in test option - If you opt for the writing section and wish to change it then the additional cost of the writing fee is refundable if you give a written request or are absent on the test date. You get a refund of USD 25 if you switch to the ACT without writing.
- Late registration and change in test date - You incur an additional charge of USD 36.
- Standby testing - If you are denied entry to the test center or your registration is canceled due to no photo provided then USD 63 is refunded.
- Change in the test center - If you change your test center then you have to pay an extra USD 40.
Application Fees for SAT
The SAT registration fee is USD 60 but there are some waivers applicable to this fee, based on income level (11th and 12th grade) for students in the US territories. Those eligible for the fee waiver can take two SATs free of charge and two chances to access answer services. The eligible students can also send their scores to unlimited colleges without extra cost. You might have to incur additional costs in case of changing center and canceling registration as described below:
- Changing test center - If you want to change the test center then you need to pay an additional fee of USD 25.
- Canceling registration - If you cancel your registration before the change deadline then USD 25 would be deducted from your refund.
- Canceling registration after the change deadline - If you cancel your registration late then USD 35 would be deducted from your refund.
- Late registration - If you register late (but before the late registration deadline) then you need to pay an extra USD 30.
- For international students - The registration fee is different for international students and in India, it is USD 104 (INR 8088) without the essay and USD 117 (INR 9099 ) with the essay section.
The ACT has four mandatory MCQ-based sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science in the same order) and an optional writing section.
|Subject||# of Questions||Time Limit||Approximate time per question||Type of Questions|
|English||75||45 minutes||36 seconds||MCQ with four answer choices|
|Math||60||60 minutes||1 minute||MCQ with five answer choices|
|Reading||40||35 minutes||52 seconds||MCQ with four answer choices|
|Science||40||35 minutes||52 seconds||MCQ with four answer choices|
|Writing||1||40 minutes||40 minutes||Essay prompt|
SAT Format: The SAT exam with the essay section is 3 hours 55 minutes and without is 3 hours. It has four sections (Reading, Writing, Math (with a calculator), Math (without a calculator), and Science.) The questions are grounded in the real world and pertain to work performed in a career or college.
|Subject||# of Questions||Time Limit||Approximate time per question||Type of Question|
|Reading||52||65 minutes||1 minute 15 seconds||MCQ based on 5 passages|
|Writing||44||35 minutes||47 seconds||MCQ based on 4 passages|
|Maths (Without a calculator)||20||25 minutes||1 minute 15 seconds||15 MCQs and 5 grid-ins|
|Maths (With a calculator)||38||55 minutes||1 minute 30 seconds||30 MCQs and 8 grid-ins|
ACT Vs SAT Content
The main difference between the ACT and SAT content is that ACT has a science section whereas SAT does not. Though SAT does test science-related skills through other sections, there is no dedicated section for science.
- The math section of both tests has geometry and trigonometry but SAT math also covers data analysis. On the other hand, ACT covers probability and statistics.
- Another key difference in the Math section between ACT and SAT is that in one of the sections of math SAT allows calculators where ACT does not allow calculators at all.
- Both tests have an optional essay section. The SAT’s essay portion tests your comprehension of a source text whereas ACT’s essay section is based on your competency in assessing and evaluating complex issues.
ACT Vs SAT Reading Section
It tests students' ability to read in detail, logical reasoning using evidence, and integrate information from multiple sources.
Five passages are provided to candidates which are either single or paired. Passages are taken from the US and world literature, Science, and history/Social Studies. You need to answer basically three types of questions based on the passages:
ACT Vs SAT Writing Section
This is an optional test in the ACT which measures your English writing skills taught in high school classes. There is only one writing prompt where a complex issue is provided along with three different perspectives on the given issue. It tests you on three parameters:
Candidates are given four passages and they are required to analyze and edit the passage’s content.
ACT Vs SAT Math Section
The ACT math section can be broken down into three types of questions:
There are four main areas of the Math test:
ACT Vs SAT English Section
It has 75 MCQ-based questions and has five reading passages of different types. Each passage has 15 questions. It tests the aptitude of candidates in written English and the rules of the English language. The candidates are assessed in three areas:
|SAT does not have a separate English section, the reading and writing section covers English language proficiency.|
ACT Vs SAT Science Section
It has 40 MCQ-type questions which evaluate skills in reasoning, analysis, problem-solving, and interpretation.
|SAT does not have a Science section.|
Who Accepts ACT Score?
ACT is accepted in all universities in the USA offering four-year degree courses and also 200 universities outside of the US. Some of the other major countries that accept ACT scores apart from the USA are Canada, Australia, and the UK.
Who Accepts SAT Score?
SAT scores are accepted in many countries including the USA, India, UK, Singapore, Canada, Malaysia, and Australia. Some of the top colleges accepting SAT scores are MIT, Caltech, and Harvard University.
When do ACT Results Come Out?
ACT results are released within eight weeks of the test date which candidates can view online. If you take the ACT writing test as well then that gets released two weeks after the general scores are out. In general ACT results do not take longer than ten days to come out. The exam is held on Saturdays and the results are mostly out by the second Tuesday after the exam date.
When do SAT Results Come Out?
You can view your SAT results online approximately two to four weeks after your test date. The tests are conducted on Saturdays and results are mostly out by the second Friday after the test.
Benefits of ACT
- ACT is accepted in all US colleges and universities.
- ACT also has an educational and career planning section that can help you plan for life after high school. You get personalized career information and can develop a comprehensive profile showcasing the work you do in high school.
- If you take the ACT more than once then you can select which test score to send and send it to four colleges for free.
- The writing test is optional in the ACT since not all institutions need a writing test for admissions.
- You are not penalized for guessing answers as there are no deductions for wrong answers.
Benefits of SAT
- It helps you enhance your English language skills which are much needed if you plan to study abroad.
- SAT results can be used to obtain scholarships or endorsements.
- SAT fees are low compared to other entrance exams.
- Most colleges in the USA accept SAT scores.
- SAT offers thousands of practice questions for free along with eight full-length sample tests on its official website.
- There is no negative marking for wrong answers.
- It improves the history, social science, and general knowledge of students.
Both ACT and SAT are equally recognized by most universities and are almost similar in complexity. You must evaluate your inner abilities to decide on which test to take. Those of you who enjoy literature, writing, and verbal communication would find ACT a favorable test for them while those who have a mathematical bent might prefer SAT.
Is the SAT harder than the ACT?
The difficulty of the SAT and ACT varies based on individual strengths. The SAT emphasizes critical thinking, while the ACT covers a broader range of topics. With preparation, both tests are conquerable.
Can I take both tests?
Absolutely! Many students opt to take both tests to assess their performance and submit the higher score to colleges. It's a strategic approach to showcase your abilities.
Do colleges prefer ACT or SAT?
Most colleges accept scores from both tests, giving you the freedom to choose. Research your target schools to determine if they have a preference.
Is the optional Essay necessary?
It depends on the colleges you're applying to. Some require the Essay, while others don't. Check the requirements of your chosen colleges.
How many times can I take the tests?
You can take the tests as many times as you want. Colleges generally consider your highest scores. However, extensive retaking may not always yield substantial score improvements.
How should I send my scores to colleges?
Both the ACT and SAT allow you to send scores directly to colleges of your choice. Some colleges also accept self-reported scores on the application.