Which Test Should You Take, the ACT or the SAT?

Both, the ACT and the SAT, are standardized college entrance exams intended to test students’ readiness for college, and both of them are practically accepted by all four-year universities and colleges in the United States. They also happen to be significantly different in many ways.

So, which test should you take, the ACT or the SAT? Let’s examine a few of the major differences:




Subject MatterCurriculum-based: testing a student’s knowledge of the subjects you took in high schoolReasoning-based: designed to measure a student’s literacy, writing skills, and problem-solving abilities
Duration of Test2 hours and 55 minutes with an optional 30 minutes essay portion3 hours with an optional 50 minutes essay portion
Structure4 major sections that are always presented in the same order: English, Math, Reading, Science 2 major sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
Writing SectionOptional1: 30-minute essayOptional2: 50-minute essay
Score RangeScore Range of 1 to 36 for each of the four multiple choice sections (English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science) and a composite score of 1 to 36 that is the average of the four multiple choice sectionsScore of 200 to 800 for each of the two sections (Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing). The total SAT score is the sum of the scores for the two sections, with a maximum of 1600 points
Test Predictors3ACT PlanPSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test)

1 – Though the ACT Writing section is optional, many colleges and universities require the ACT Plus Writing as a part of your application.
2 – Though the SAT Writing section is optional, many colleges and universities require the SAT Writing as a part of your application.
3 – If you’ve already taken the PSAT in 10th or 11th grade and scored well on it, the SAT may be the right test for you. Similarly, your results from PLAN, ACT Inc.’s test for 10th graders can be a good indicator of how you’ll perform on the ACT.

Which test is right for you?
Though the SAT and ACT are different in many ways, neither test is objectively easier than the other. In fact, many students who take both tests usually end up with comparable scores. That being said, many students find that one test is better suited for their test-taking style and study habits.

We recommend that you take practice exams for both the SAT and ACT so you can get familiar with the style of each and find out which test is the right fit for you. For further help and guidance, just call Dolphin Academic Prep and we’ll be happy to schedule a consultation and a diagnostic test.