The Showdown: The SAT v/s The ACT

Now that we’ve been introduced to the SAT and the ACT, let’s look at how the two compare and which might be the better option for you!

For “standardizing” the evaluation process, the SAT and the ACT are very different from each other. But undergrad colleges around the US now accept both of them without bias, giving the test taker the option to choose the one that best suits his or her strengths, while maximizing results.

What they test:

The SAT measures critical thinking skills. It is nuanced, puzzle-like and trickier.
The ACT measures the knowledge, understanding, and skills that you have acquired throughout high school. It is knowledge-based and straightforward.

The SAT tests you on vocabulary. You must be a strong reader.
The ACT on the other hand, stresses on grammar, punctuation and syntax. It tests the test taker’s memory, speed of reading and ability to process information swiftly.

The ACT tests you on science and trigonometry as well.
If you don’t do well when examining graphs and other data to formulate scientific conclusions, the SAT might be a better option.

The SAT gives you 25 minutes to brainstorm and answer an essay topic. You must use examples from history, literature, or your own experiences.
The ACT essay is comparatively straighter and students are given 30 minutes to answer the question. The essay on the ACT test is optional, but required by some colleges.

Section order:

The SAT subject sections come in random and mixed order. So an English section might precede a Math and then pop up again after it.
The ACT on the other hand requires you to deal with each subject only once. So when you complete a subject, you don’t see it again for the rest of the test.

The Gender Bender:

Historically, Boys have done better than Girls on the SAT.
However, the gap is considerably reduced to almost par on their performances on the ACT.


The SAT is a good 3 hours and 45 minutes long.
Students with lower attention spans prefer the ACT that is only 2 hours and: 55 minutes long with an additional 30 minutes for the optional essay

The SAT lets you answer at a leisurely pace with 70 minutes to answer 54 reading questions. The ACT on the other hand is a speed test requiring you to answer 40 questions in the reading section, in 35 minutes

While the SAT has a 0.25 penalty for guessing incorrectly, students should always guess on a question if they can eliminate at least one answer.
But the ACT imposes no penalty for guessing, which is one of the crucial reasons for students to favour it..

While each test has its set of opponents and proponents, choose the one which suits you best. Take practice tests of both and decide which one you are most comfortable with and the one you feel you can get the highest score on.