Exams Know-how

SAT vs ACT: What is the Difference between ACT and SAT?

Yocket Editorial Team
SAT vs ACT: What is the Difference between ACT and SAT? Image

If you wish to pursue your bachelor’s education abroad, you must have already come across the SAT and ACT tests. Not only do these two exams sound similar but they also serve a similar function while applying to some of the top undergrad colleges abroad. Since both the tests are well-renowned and accepted globally, students are often confused about the difference between ACT and SAT. 

Need not worry as this blog will cover each aspect of the SAT and ACT exams in detail, highlighting their key differences, test subsections, scoring pattern, and fee structure. Understanding the SAT and ACT difference is of prime importance and will definitely simplify your pre-arrival study abroad journey!

  Table of Contents

  1. Overview of SAT and ACT Exams
  2. SAT vs. ACT: Quick Glance
  3. What is the Difference between ACT and SAT?
  4. Essays Requirement for SAT and ACT
  5. Who Accepts the SAT and ACT?
  6. How to Pick the Right Test for Yourself?
  7. Is ACT Easier than SAT?
  8. Frequently Asked Questions about SAT vs ACT

Overview of SAT and ACT Exams

The key objective of the SAT and ACT is to seek admission to undergraduate courses at the best educational institutions based in the USA, Australia, Canada, UK and other countries. Test scores help the examining body evaluate a student’s knowledge and learning gained during high school studies. The admission committees also consider the ACT and SAT scores while awarding merit-based scholarships at top universities in the world. Most educational institutions do not prefer one test over the other and thus both SAT and ACT have equal importance.

SAT vs ACT: Quick Glance

It is evident from the larger numbers of applicants for both tests each year that SAT and ACT both hold considerable significance. The answer to the question-”Which is better: SAT or ACT?” can differ from student to student. The choice completely depends upon a student’s personal preference. Some students do better on the SAT, while a few others do well in the ACT. Both the tests cover the common subjects including comprehension, problem-solving, reading, writing, and mathematics.

The following SAT vs ACT comparison chart provides an overview of the crucial aspects pertaining to both exams, and highlights the key difference between ACT and SAT:




Introduced in



No. of students attempting the test in 2020

2.2 million

1.7 million


Conducted 7 times a year

Conducted 7 times in USA and Canada while 5 times in other nations in a year

Negative marking



Scoring range



Time Per Section

  • Reading: 65 minutes
  • Writing and Language: 35 minutes
  • Math without Calculator: 25 minutes
  • Math with Calculator: 55 minutes
  • English: 45 minutes
  • Math: 60 minutes
  • Reading: 35 minutes
  • Science: 35 minutes
  • Writing (optional): 40 minutes

Total Time

Total of 3 hours

  • 2 hours 55 minutes without Writing
  • 3 hours 35 minutes with Writing

Total Questions

  • Reading: 52 questions
  • Writing and Language: 44 questions
  • Math without Calculator: 20 questions
  • Math with Calculator: 38 questions
  • English: 75 questions
  • Math: 60 questions
  • Reading: 40 questions
  • Science: 40 questions
  • Writing (optional): 1 essay

Order of Sections

  • Reading
  • Writing and Language
  • Math No Calculator
  • Math Calculator
  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Writing (optional)

Suggested: Strategies and Tips for SAT Preparation

What is the Difference between ACT and SAT?

Even though the ACT exam vs SAT debate is never ending, both the exams serve the same purpose, they differ on some aspects. In this section we have highlighted the SAT and ACT difference based on certain factors and parameters like:

  • Type of Questions: SAT and ACT Syllabus
  • Timing
  • Cost
  • Scoring

Let us understand the most significant differences between ACT exam and SAT:

SAT vs ACT: Type of Questions

With regards to how the questions are framed and how that plays out while attempting the test, ACT vs SAT test differ in the following manner:

Key Parameters



Nature of questions

Lesser number of questions but more time per question.

Has a greater number of questions with less time per question.

Structure of questions

May have tables, charts or graphs. It has two maths sections contributing to 50% of the total score.

Questions are text based.

Also Check: SAT Preparation Guide

SAT vs ACT: Timing

Time plays a vital role in answering a test. Based on your capabilities, you can choose between the two tests and pick one that you think would be able to attempt efficiently and achieve your desired score.


Time per Question




1 minute

1.81 minutes


52.5 seconds

1.25 minutes

English (ACT) OR

Writing and Language (SAT)

36 seconds

47.72 seconds

The table clearly reflects that the SAT allots students comparatively more time to attempt the different sections in the test.

Recommended: All Your Questions on ACT Answered!

SAT vs ACT: Cost

Exam fees can be one of the deciding factors while choosing which test to go for. This becomes more critical if one might consider going for multiple attempts of the test to improve their score.

Thus, as can be seen from the following table, the SAT exam is relatively cheaper to ACT for the international candidates. So, if the exam cost is a concerning criteria, then you might want to go ahead with the SAT exam.




Registration Fees

(In USA)


$60 (without essay)

$85 (with essay)

Late Fee



International Fees

(For test takers outside USA)

$98-108 (Depends upon test taking region/nation)

$168.5 (without essay)

$188.5 (with essay)

The exam fees are subject to change. Students are advised to check the latest updates on official platforms before applying for a test.

Suggested: All about the ACT Exam Registration!

SAT vs ACT: Scores

The below table provides an overview about the SAT to ACT score conversion. As both exams are scored on very different scales, the following table can help get a comparative overview. Students must strive to achieve their best score in order to stand out among the large number of applicants at top colleges globally.

The ACT vs SAT scores conversion is another necessary parameter to compare the two tests. The table below shows ACT vs SAT score comparison:

ACT Composite Score

SAT Composite Score

























































Suggested: Universities that don’t require SAT or ACT

Essays Requirement for SAT and ACT

While the essay requirement for SAT and writing requirement for ACT are both optional, there are numerous top colleges that ask for a SAT or ACT essay requirement during the admission process.

SAT essay is more likely to judge you on your analytical skills and abilities. The ACT writing, on the other hand, usually does not have a right or wrong answer, and judges you on your ability to stick to your view point. Both the exams will clearly assess your language skills.

Recommended: All Your Questions on SAT Answered!

Who Accepts the SAT and ACT?

Top universities around the world, along with recognised colleges and institutions accept both SAT and ACT exams. Around 85 countries in the world accept the SAT and ACT exams, with the US and UK topping the list.

How to Pick the Right Test for Yourself?

To choose the right option between the SAT and ACT exams, it is necessary to start with giving practice tests. There is a high possibility that only one out of both the exams will suit you.

It has usually been observed that students with a strong English background go for the ACT exam, and students who do extremely well in mathematics opt for the SAT exam. Therefore, it becomes essential to analyse your practice tests, and go for the choice you are the most comfortable with.

Suggested: What After the SAT/ ACT Exam?

Is ACT Easier than SAT?

It is essential to remember that a test’s difficulty is subjective to each student. The comparison between the two can only help you determine which test might be better aligned with your skills.

In this case, one of the decision-making factors can be the subject of Mathematics. The ACT has one math section with a calculator. while SAT has a Math section with two subsections, with and without calculators). Math section contributes to 50% of the SAT score but only 25% of the ACT score. Thus, to answer- “ACT vs SAT: Which is easier?” If Math is something which bothers you then this difference might be a point of consideration. Also, it is worth noting that test-takers have frequently found the Math section in the ACT to be a bit more challenging as compared to SAT.

Another differentiating factor is about Science, for which the ACT has an entire devoted section. Whereas the SAT doesn’t evaluate the scientific aptitude of the test takers. Thus, if Science as a subject field is something which you are concerned about then you might want to consider this aspect.

Recommended: All about the ACT Exam Preparation

One must note that the answer to the question: “Which is better, ACT or SAT?” is a subjective one. The study material, format and duration, test fee and other essentials are similar to a great extent and both tests are conducted every year. No matter which test you go ahead with, remember to prioritise your preparation and structure it well ahead of time.

Also, there are many students who choose to attempt both tests while seeking admission in undergraduate courses at top educational institutions across the world. If you have even more queries, you can connect with our Yocket Counsellors!

Frequently Asked Questions about SAT vs ACT

Ques. Whats the difference between the SAT and ACT?

Ans. Both tests serve the same purpose as aptitude tests for undergraduate admission at universities abroad. There are differences in the structure of the tests, the scoring and time spent on each question in the test.

Ques. Is the ACT or SAT harder?

Ans. Difficulty level is subjective to each student; one test cannot be said to be objectively harder than the other.

Ques. Do colleges prefer SAT or ACT?

Ans. Both are universally accepted.

Ques. Is the SAT or ACT better?

Ans. One test can only be better than the other depending on which course and field of study the individual chooses. Another deciding factor can be the student’s aptitude in mathematics; the subject controls 50% of the SAT score but only 25% of the ACT score.

Ques. Is 800 a good score for the SAT?

Ans. Generally, a good score will be between 1200-1600 if you are aiming for top colleges abroad.

Ques. Is ACT maths easier than SAT?

Ans. Students have frequently found ACT maths to be more difficult than SAT. This could possibly be because of less time allotted per question in the ACT exam. For the maths section, ACT allots 1 minute while SAT allows 1.8 minutes

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