ACT VS SAT comparison, Difference, Eligibilty and Tips

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ACT VS SAT comparison, Difference, Eligibilty and Tips


When it comes to studying abroad, primarily taking admission in the universities of the United States of America, students appear in the two most popular tests that are SAT and ACT. Both of the examinations are accredited and used by the Universities and colleges to select eligible candidates for UG courses. 

However, still, there are several students having doubts about which examination to appear? Should they apply for SAT or ACT? Or which is better: SAT Or ACT? To answer all these questions, we, the team of grade up, have designed this article. Here, you will get the answers to all your questions and choose the right for you. So lets’ get started. 

ACT vs SAT: How to Decide Which Test to Take

Students are faced with many confusing decisions when they are applying to college. One of these decisions is between taking the SAT Or ACT exam. The majority of colleges accept either one, but some have their preferences.

The ACT exam is designed for students in the US and Canada. It has four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. It measures how well students have learned what they were taught in school.

The SAT exam is also for US and Canadian students. Still, it is more global than the ACT as it is accepted by more universities outside of North America, such as Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the UK and universities in Australia and New Zealand.

Comparing the ACT VS SAT: Which one is best? 

The science section is included in the ACT exam.  In the SAT exam, one additional Maths section is included. For the Math section, the use of calculators is prohibited. 

ACT VS SAT comparison

Difference Between SAT And ACT

Why appear in the exam? The colleges and universities consider the SAT scores to give candidates admissions and merit-based scholarships. The colleges and universities consider the ACT scores to give candidates admissions and merit-based scholarships.
Exam pattern  Reading

Writing & Language





Science Reasoning

Essay (Optional In nature)

Duration of the examination 3 hours 2 hours, 55 minutes (without Essay)

3 hours, 40 minutes (with Essay)

Reading 5 reading passages 4 reading passages
Science Not included, however, candidates will face science-related questions throughout the examination.  A separate Science section will be included.

The primary motive is to test the critical thinking skills of students (not specific science knowledge)

Math Covers:


Algebra I & II

Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis



Algebra I & II

Geometry, Trigonometry, and Probability & Statistics

Calculator Policy Not allowed to use the calculator for solving the questions.  You can use a calculator on all math questions.
Essays None Optional. The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.
How It’s Scored On a scale of 400–1600 On a scale of 1–36


Eligibility criteria of both SAT and ACT exams:

There is no age limit for candidates willing to appear in the examination. At the same time, the minimum age of a candidate to appear in the SAT exam is 17 years. 

ACT VS SAT Timing and Exam Pattern:

  • The duration of SAT exam is of 3 hours, and 
  • The ACT exam is 2 hours and 55 minutes. 

The ACT’s 40-minute optional writing test can be a little longer for more than 3 hours 30 minutes. 

There are a total of 154 questions asked in the SAT examination. On the other hand, in the ACT exam, there are 215 questions. 

Breaking the Test Components: SAT Or ACT

In the SAT exam, 

  • The reading test takes 65 minutes
  • Writing and language test takes 35 minutes
  • The math section takes 80 minutes 

In the ACT exam:

  • The reading test takes 35 minutes
  • English test takes 45 minutes
  • The science test takes 35 minutes
  • The math section takes 60 minutes 

In the SAT exam, there is no separate section of Science. However, students will get science-related questions throughout the examination. 

The scoring criteria of both examinations are also different from each other. 

For the SAT, total scores range from 400-1600; for the ACT, the composite score runs from 1-36. The optional ACT writing test does not include this score. It will be scored separately. 

States require ACT VS SAT exam scores:

Before appearing in the examination, it is also essential for you to check which state you want to take admission to. Here is the list. 

Following are the 11 states that require the ACT:

  • Alabama
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
Following are the ten states/regions that require the SAT:

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • West Virginia



The cost of each exam differs from the other. 

Amount to be paid SAT ACT
Registration  fees without Essay part  $52 $55
Registration fees with Essay $68 $70
Fees for test centre change   $0 from Essay to No Essay, 

$16 from No Essay to Essay

$0 from Writing to No Writing (Writing fee refundable upon request), 

$15 from No Essay to Essay

Fee for Late Registration $30 $35
Test date or exam centre Change Fee  $30 $35
Waiting list/Standby Fee  $53 $56
Report of First 4 Score  $0 $0
Additional Score Reports $12 each $13 each


If any candidate cannot afford the exam fees, the state support or fee waivers prove a great help. 


Some students think that both the SAT and ACT exam are pretty similar. However, some significant differences are required to consider before choosing anyone. Here we are giving the content-wise differentiation between both. 

Topics Covered ACT SAT
Reading Section  Key Ideas and Details

Craft and Structure

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

Command of Evidence

Words in Context

Analysis in History/Social Studies and Science

Math Section
  • Number and Quantity
  • Algebra
  • Functions
  • Geometry
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Integrating Essential Skills
  • Modelling
  • Heart of Algebra
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Passport to Advanced Math
  • Some additional topics
Science Section A separate science section is there having: 

Interpretation of Data

Scientific Investigation

Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results

A separate science section is not given.  
English/Writing and Language Section Production of Writing

Knowledge of Language

Conventions of English

Optional Writing Test (Essay)

Command of Evidence

Words in Context

Analysis in History/Social Studies and Science

Expression of Ideas

Optional Essay

Essay Section The optional final section, 

Duration is 40 minutes 

Separate score, 

The score does not include in the overall score. 

Optional final section

Duration is 50 minutes 

Separate score

 The score does not include in the overall score. 


Frequency of tests – SAT And ACT Difference:

The SAT exam is held seven times a year in the US. Internationally, the exam is held five times a year. 

The ACT exam is held six times a year. 


Is ACT Easier Than SAT?

Usually, students have such questions in mind, like Is SAT Exam Easy? Or Is ACT Easier Than SAT? Well, neither SAT nor ACT exam is easy. The ease depends on your preparation and confidence in qualifying for the examination. Apart from this, a few factors also affect the Maths section. Are you comfortable calculating without the help of a calculator and scientific knowledge, as the ACT exam will have a separate science section?  Additionally, your ability to crack evidence-support questions and your Reading ability also matter. 

Still, having doubts about which test to take?

The above-given information will help you differentiate between both SAT and ACT exams. However, if you have any doubts, the following steps will prove to be helpful for you. Take a look. 

Are your Math skills strong enough?

There are two math sections in the SAT exam, one calculator and one non-calculator. Also, a math formula guide is given to help students solve the problems. The Math section contributes to about 50 per cent of the exam. 

In the ACT section, only one Calculator section is given. It weighs 25 per cent of the score in the examination. 

If your Math is not strong enough, taking the ACT exam is a better option. 

Practice both the tests:

If you are unsure which tests to take, try the Practice sets of ACT and SAT? It will help you understand the type and pattern of the examination, but you will also understand which test you are best at. 

Take Both Tests:

If you are confident enough and have the proper preparation, you can take the tests and submit your best score. Remember, most universities discourage students from taking the exam more than three times. 

Ask yourself some questions: SAT And ACT (ACT VS SAT) Difference.

How good are your geometry skills?  Choose SAT Exam 
Are you comfortable solving questions without a calculator?
Do you easily memorize different and several math formulas?
Are you comfortable learning scientific terms?
Is it easy for you to remember the detail’s location in passages? Choose SAT Or ACT (applicable in both)
Are your grammar and punctuation skills strong?
Are you efficient and quick in your work?
Do you live in one of the states accepting scores? Choose according to the list. 
Do you feel any issue while answering the questions not given in chronological order? Choose ACT Exam 
Do you have any problem with vocabulary-related questions?
Do you face any sort of problem while answering the questions related to the writing style?
Is it easy for you to find the answer in any passage?


Conclusion of ACT VS SAT

Both the examinations have their importance. Is SAT Exam Easy Or Is ACT Easier Than SAT are based on preparation.  If you have the right preparation and guidance, you can easily choose the one. Also, the above-given guide on SAT And ACT Difference will prove to be helpful.
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Ankit Dev Arpan

Author Since: June 11, 2021

Ankit Dev Arpan is the Founder of the Writers Community. He is an author, writer, youth politician, political analyst, social activist, and visionary personality.

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