The SAT was the original standardized test for college admissions and was created by the College Board in 1926. The ACT was a competitor standardized test introduced in 1959. The ACT is more popular in the regions of the Midwest, Southwest, and Rocky Mountain regions while the SAT is more popular in the Pacific, Southeast, and Northeast region of the United States. While the SAT is more widely mentioned in popular culture, the ACT surpassed the SAT in the number of test takers in 2011. The ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36 while the SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600.

ACT vs SAT – Which to Choose?

Both the ACT and SAT are accepted at universities nationwide. There is no significant difference in the admissions rate between the ACT and SAT. However, it is probably advisable to take the test most common in your state and city. If you score significantly better on the ACT or SAT, even if it is not the most common test for your region, then you should consider taking the test that you can obtain a better score. For ACT vs SAT calculator policy, you can use a calculator on the entire ACT math section. For the SAT math section, you can use a calculator. However, there is a 25-minute section with 20 questions where you cannot use a calculator.

The ACT is offered 6 times per year, and the SAT is offered 7 times per year. Here is a schedule comparing ACT vs SAT.

act vs sat

In terms of cost of ACT vs SAT, the cost for the ACT without an essay is $39.50, and the cost for the SAT without essay is $43.00. The cost for the ACT with the essay is $56.50, and the cost for the SAT with the essay is $54.50. Here is a table with costs for the ACT vs SAT.

act vs sat

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

More ACT vs SAT Comparisons


The ACT has an ACT Science section while the SAT doesn’t have a similar section. The ACT Science section does not require a lot of outside science knowledge. The ACT Section tests the ability to read tables and graphs and answer questions about scientific situations.

English and Writing

To compare the rest of the sections on the ACT and SAT, The ACT English and SAT Writing sections are similar. Both the ACT and SAT contain passages that have a high school to early college reading level. The SAT may contain some additional graphical information compared to the ACT.


Comparing ACT vs SAT for math, the SAT generally contains more advanced math questions than the ACT.

act vs sat

Reading And Essay

Comparing SAT Reading vs ACT Reading, the ACT has four long passages of 700-900 words while the SAT has five longish passages of 500-750 words. The SAT uses a different question type in SAT Reading called the command of evidence question. Command of Evidence questions require you to use evidence to create or defend an argument.

The last comparison for ACT vs SAT is the ACT Essay and SAT Essay sections. For the ACT essay, you’ll have to evaluate three different perspectives on an issue. You will also have to present your own perspective. For the SAT essay, you’ll need to read a 650-700 word passage and then write an essay on how the author creates and strengthens his or her argument in the passage.

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