The ACT and SAT tests are college admittance tests that high school students take. (Ashlynn Roberts / The Talon News)

SAT vs ACT: Which Test Is Best For You

February 24, 2020

As the spring semester is underway, upperclassmen are focusing their efforts on college preparations—specifically college admissions tests such as the ACT and SAT. Seniors are looking to boost their scores for last-minute scholarship opportunities, while juniors take the test so they have an accurate gauge of where they are and can be aware of what they need to improve before they take the test again the following year. While there are pros and cons that come with both tests, the main question people wonder is which test is right for them. 

Time Differences:

The ACT takes 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete without the essay, and 3 hours and 35 minutes with the essay. The SAT takes 3 hours to complete without the essay, and 3 hours and 50 minutes with the essay.

Test-Takers Can Expect to See:

The ACT test includes Math, Reading, English and Science sections, whereas the SAT has Reading, English and Math without Science. The SAT has five reading sections and the ACT test has four. 

Sections ACT SAT 
Math 60 minutes for 60 questions 80 minutes for 58 questions
Essay (optional) 40 minutes for one essay 50 minutes for one essay
Science 35 minutes for 40 questions N/A
Reading 35 minutes for 40 questions 65 minutes for 52 questions
English 45 minutes for 75 questions 35 minutes for 44 questions


Overall, the ACT allows less time per question on each section than the SAT does, so students who take longer to test generally lean towards the SAT. The ACT also includes a science section. 


The ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36, while the SAT is on a scale of 400-1600. 

Which One Is Best For Me?

The ACT is generally easier for students who are fast workers and readers. Additionally, the ACT is recommended for students who are gifted in science and can easily interpret data tables. 

Students who take longer to read, but absorb material better are suggested to take the SAT test. The SAT includes higher-level passages that aren’t as prevalent on the ACT. Students who are good at reading between the lines and finding tricks on tests usually like the SAT better as well.

In the end, it is recommended that students try both tests if they are not sure which one suits them best.


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