SAT or ACT? Do you know which test is right for you?

Colleges accept both tests equally, so the choice is up to you! The ACT and SAT generally test the same types of content. The biggest differences are that the ACT has a Science Test and the SAT has one Math section for which you cannot use a calculator.

Here's what you need to know to compare the exams.

 SATACT
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

ACT vs SAT: How Do I Choose?

The best way to decide which test is right for you is to take a timed full-length practice test in each. Since the content and style of the SAT and ACT are very similar, factors like how you handle time pressure and what types of questions you find most challenging can help you determine which test is a better fit. For example, the pace of the SAT gives you a tad more time to think through problems, while the ACT can be more of a time crunch. Some students really thrive under the pressure of the clock, while others prefer the extra time to ponder a question.

Need help deciding ACT or SAT? Try a free practice test for each and see how you score!

Take a Free Practice Test