SAT vs ACT: What’s the Difference?

Description of the SAT

Comparison of the Major Features: Pre-March-2016 SAT and New SAT
Category Pre-March-2016 SAT New SAT
Total Testing Time 3 hours and 45 minutes 3 hours (plus 50 minutes for the Essay [optional])
Components
  1. Critical Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Mathematics
  4. Essay
  1. Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
    • Reading Test
    • Writing and Language Test
  2. Math
  3. Essay (optional)
Important Features
  • Emphasis on general reasoning skills
  • Emphasis on vocabulary, often in limited contexts
  • Complex scoring (a point for a correct answer and a deduction for an incorrect answer; blank responses have no impact on scores)
  • Focus on the knowledge, skills, and understandings that research has identified as most important for college and career readiness and success
  • Greater emphasis on the meaning of words in extended contexts and on how word choice shapes meaning, tone, and impact
  • Rights-only scoring (no penalty for guessing)
Essay
  • Required and given at the beginning of the SAT
  • 25 minutes to write the essay
  • Tests writing skill; students take a position on a presented issue
  • Optional and given at the end of the SAT; postsecondary institutions determine whether they will require the Essay for admission
  • 50 minutes to write the essay
  • Tests reading, analysis, and writing skills; students produce a written analysis of a provided source text
Score Reporting
  • Scale ranging from 600 to 2400
  • Scale ranging from 200 to 800 for Critical Reading; 200 to 800 for Mathematics; 200 to 800 for Writing
  • Essay results scaled to multiple-choice Writing
  • Scale ranging from 400 to 1600
  • Scale ranging from 200 to 800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing; 200 to 800 for Math; 2 to 8 on each of three dimensions for Essay
  • Essay results reported separately
Subscore Reporting None Subscores for every test, providing added insight for students, parents, admission officers, educators, and counselors

Test Length and Timing Compared

Comparison of Test Length and Timing: Pre-March-2016 SAT and New SAT
Pre-March-2016 SAT New SAT
Component Time Allotted
(min.)
Number of Questions/
Tasks
Component Time Allotted
(min.)
Number of Questions/
Tasks
Critical Reading 70 67 Reading 65 52
Writing 60 49 Writing and Language 35 44
Essay 25 1 Essay (optional) 50 1
Mathematics 70 54 Math 80 58
Total 225 171 Total 180 (230 with Essay) 154 (155 with Essay)

Resource: www.collegeboard.org

 

Description of the ACT

The ACT (No Writing) consists of four multiple-choice tests: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. The ACT Plus Writing includes the four multiple-choice tests and a Writing Test.

Test Content
English

75 questions

45 minutes

Measures standard written English and rhetorical skills.
Mathematics

60 questions

60 minutes

Measures mathematical skills students have typically acquired in courses taken up to the beginning of grade 12.
Reading

40 questions

35 minutes

Measures reading comprehension.
Science

40 questions

35 minutes

Measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences.
Optional Writing Test

1 prompt

30 minutes

Measures writing skills emphasized in high school English classes and in entry-level college composition courses.

Your Composite score and each test score (English, Mathematics, Reading, Science) range from 1 (low) to 36 (high). The Composite Score is the average of your four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or more are rounded up.

Resource: www.act.org

Side by Side

SAT ACT
Why Take It Colleges use SAT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships. Colleges use ACT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.
Test Structure
  • Reading
  • Writing & Language
  • Math
  • Essay (Optional)
  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science Reasoning

Essay (Optional)

Length
  • 3 hours (without essay)
  • 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)
  • 2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)
  • 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)
Reading 5 reading passages 4 reading passages
Science None 1 science section testing your critical thinking skills (not your specific science knowledge)
Math Covers:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I & II
  • Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis
Covers:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I & II
  • Geometry and Trigonometry
Calculator Policy Some math questions don’t allow you to use a calculator. You can use a calculator on all math questions.
Essays Optional. The essay will test your comprehension of a source text. Optional. The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.
How It’s Scored Scored on a scale of 400–1600 Scored on a scale of 1–36

Resource: https://www.princetonreview.com/college/sat-act