The ACT test vs the SAT® exam: How are They Different?

Deciding between taking the ACT test and SAT exam? Here are some key facts that will hopefully make your decision easier!

What subjects do the ACT and SAT exam cover?

The ACT test covers four subjects: English, Science, Reading, and Math, with an optional Writing portion. The SAT exam covers three subjects: Mathematics, Reading, and Writing and Language, plus an optional Writing Test.

Does guessing on the ACT and SAT exams count against you?

Neither test penalizes the test-taker for guessing. The old SAT exam did have such a penalty, but, as of 2016, that was discontinued. So, if you can narrow the answer choices down to two on either test, you have a reasonable chance of picking the right one and your score will not be reduced if you are wrong.

What do the ACT and SAT exams actually measure?

With recent test modifications, the ACT and SAT exams measure approximately the same things: Reading, Math, and (optionally) Writing skills. The ACT test does have a separate Science test, but the questions are not so much about the science you know as how well you can reason about science content presented to you. This type of reasoning is touched on in the SAT exam, as well, in several passages on the Reading test.

What is the time-per-question factor on the ACT and SAT exams?

This is probably the biggest difference in the two exams: intensity of effort. The current version of the SAT exam contains fewer questions for the time allotted. So, you will have more time to spend on each question while taking the SAT exam than you will on the ACT test.

How long are the ACT and SAT exams?

The ACT exam is 3 hours long, although you are allotted an extra 40 minutes if you chose to do the optional Writing portion, which would bump up your time to 3 hours, 40 minutes. The SAT is 3 hours long, plus 50 minutes for the optional essay portion.

How much does it cost to take the ACT and SAT exams?

Your cost for the ACT test will be $39.50 without the Writing test and $56.50 if you take this optional part of the exam. The fee for the SAT exam is $43.00 for the basic test and $54.40, if the writing test is included.

The difference between the ACT and SAT

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