5 key differences between ACT and SAT

5 key differences between ACT and SAT

ACT and SAT are both standardised tests used by College admission boards to evaluate applicants, in addition to the students’ high school grades. These tests are administered globally and taken by millions of students aspiring for a college education in the US. While most of the US colleges accept both ACT and SAT scores, there are quite a few differences between ACT and SAT.

Here are the 5 key differences between ACT and SAT:

ONE: Seconds available per question

In each of the sections, the SAT offers more time to answer per question compared to ACT. This can make a crucial difference, especially for the Math section. The following are the details in tabular format:

  • SAT
  • ACT English/SAT Writing
    48 sec/question
    36 sec/question
  • Math
    W/O Calculator: 75 sec/question
    With Calculator: 87 sec/question
    60 sec/question
  • Reading
    75 sec/question
    53 sec/question
  • Science
    Section not included in SAT
    53 sec/question

TWO: Using a Calculator for Math Section

While both ACT and SAT have a Math section, in SAT, for the first 25 minutes with 20 questions in Math, using a calculator is not allowed. ACT on the other hand, allows a calculator for the whole Math section. But this need not be a deal breaker for the students to skip SAT and go for ACT since the questions in SAT are geared more towards reasoning rather than arithmetic.

THREE: Multiple Choice and Fill in Answers

All questions in ACT are multiple choices, as in, the student has to choose the correct answer from multiple choices. Whereas in SAT, 13 questions in Math section have boxes where the student has to fill in the correct answer. There will be no answer choices to help narrow down the right answer for some of the questions in SAT Math section.

FOUR: Science Section

There is no separate Science section in SAT. While there is a Science section in ACT containing 40 questions and for 35 minutes. This another key difference between ACT and SAT where students who are not comfortable with Science subject, prefer to take the SAT over ACT.

FIVE: Composite Percentile calculation

The last key difference is the most important one – How is your composite percentile calculated and what impact does a lower Math score have on it? If a student is weaker in Math compared to other sections, and thus scores lower in it, in the composite ACT score, Math score accounts for 1/4th of the total. Whereas, in the composite SAT score, Math score accounts for 1/2 of the total, meaning a low Math score will impact the composite SAT score much more compared to the composite ACT score. Needless to say, if a student is not confident of scoring high in Math section, then ACT could be a safer bet compared to SAT.

To know more about ACT and SAT, do read some of our other blogs on related topics:

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