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The ACT and the SAT are both exams required for college admission. Many students wonder which is better or which one college’s prefer more. Colleges actually don’t prefer one over the other. Neither of the two is fundamentally better than the other; however one of the two might be more suited to certain students than the other.

act v sat                                                us map by exam

  • Miscellaneous Differences: The SAT takes place in the months of October, November, December, January, March, May and June. The ACT takes place in the months of September, October, December, February, April, June and from 2018 in July also. Both the SAT and ACT are long exams, who’s length crosses hours each. The SAT is 3 hours 50 minutes long with the optional essay, without the essay it is 3 hours long. The ACT is 3 hours 40 minutes long with the optional essay, without the essay it is 3 hours long. The ACT also has an additional Science section that the SAT does not have. They both have different registration fees. The SAT is $54.50 with the essay and $43 without. The ACT ranges from $34-$49.50.
  • SAT Math V.S ACT Math: The Math section of the two exams is slightly different. The way that the ACT math section is broken up is simple. There are 60 multiple choice questions to be answered in 60 minutes. The portion for the ACT Math section is as follows, algebra, which includes 14 pre-algebra questions, 10 elementary algebra questions and 9 intermediate algebra questions. The portions also includes geometry, which has 14 plane geometry questions and 9 coordinate geometry questions, lastly there are also 4 questions based on trigonometry in this section. The use of calculator is allowed throughout the section. The ACT does not give basic Mathematic formulae at the beginning of the section. The SAT Math section has 58 multiple choice questions to be answered in 80 minutes. The portion includes algebra I/II, arithmetic, probability, coordinate geometry, data analysis and trigonometry. The SAT Math section consists of 2 sub-sections, the calculator and no-calculator sections. The no-calculator section is 25 minutes long with 20 multiple choice questions, the calculator section is 55 minute with 38 questions. Both sections contain grid-in questions. The SAT however does give basic Mathematical formulae at the beginning of the Math section.exam photo                                        exam photos 2
  • SAT English V.S ACT English: The ACT English section generally focuses on testing the students editing skills. The student has to fix grammatical and punctuation errors. There are a total of 5 passages to edit. In total there are 75 questions which have to be answered in 45 minutes. The SAT English consists of an evidence based reading section and a writing and language section. The reading section consists of 5 passages with a total of 52 multiple choice questions with a time limit of 65 minutes. The passages cover a variety of topics from History, Art, Literature, Science etc. The writing and editing section has a total of 4 passages, with 44 multiple choice questions and 45 minutes to answer them. The questions are grammar, vocabulary and editing based.
  • SAT Essay V.S ACT Essay: Both the SAT and the ACT offer an optional essay. Since most colleges require the essay, students are encouraged to take it. The ACT essay has a 40 minute time limit. Students are given 1 prompt and 3 perspective based around the prompt. The student’s goal is to analyse the given perspectives and develop their own also. They have to explain the relation between their perspective and the given ones. The SAT essay is different. The student has 50 minutes to write. They will be given 1 prompt text to read, they then have to describe how the author of the text builds a persuasive argument.
  • ACT Science: The Science section of the ACT is unique. This section has 7 Science based passages, 40 multiple choice questions and a total of 35 minutes to answer them. This section tests the students ability to glean info from the passage. The passages may also have tables, graphs and illustrations added to them.
  • SAT Scoring V.S ACT Scoring: Each section of the ACT is scored separately, but is brought together for a composite score, which is basically the average of each individual score. The composite score is from 1-36. The SAT is scored out of 1600 points, where each section is of 200-800 points.

Those are the major differences between the SAT and the ACT. Again, colleges don’t prefer one over the other, so pick one that suits you best. Good luck with whatever you choose.

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About the Author

Keval Anekar is a 16 year old student. He aspires to study abroad. He writes  to share what he has learnt with confused students to be of some help. He is also a student at Ivy Aspire