SAT vs. ACT 2024: Which Exam Should You Choose?

SAT vs ACT 2024 Which Exam Should You Choose

The SAT and ACT exams are imperative for admission to undergraduate programs at prestigious universities in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and other well-known study abroad locations. Colleges use these standardized tests as a benchmark to assess a student’s aptitude and willingness for admission to an undergraduate program. Furthermore, gaining merit-based scholarships at esteemed universities frequently depends heavily on one’s SAT and ACT results.

The purpose of both tests is to evaluate a student’s knowledge and abilities, but they differ in terms of format, subject matter, and scoring guidelines. Understanding these differences is crucial for students who want to make well-informed decisions that complement their preferences and areas of strength.

This MSM Unify blog explores the subtle differences between SAT vs ACT, providing a detailed comparison of the two exams. This blog aims to shed light on the intricacies of these tests to help all aspirants navigate the testing process smoothly.


SAT vs ACT differences 

Area of difference SAT ACT
Full form Scholastic Assessment Test American College Testing
Year of introduction 1926 1959
Who administers it? College Board ACT
Duration 180 minutes 175 minutes without writing

And additional 40 minutes for writing the test

Score 400 to 1600 1 to 36
Test sections ·   Reading

·   Writing and language

·   Maths

·   English

·   Maths

·   Reading

·   Science

·   Writing (optional)

Frequency of test

(every year)

7 times ·   5 times around the world

·   7 times in the US

Use of calculator The calculator can be used in SAT exams on the portion of the test labeled Math Test ‚Äď Calculator.¬† The calculator can be used in ACT exams
Exam mode Pen and paper-based Computer-based
Test fees USD 103 USD 181 without writing and USD 206 with writing



What is the ACT exam?

The ACT, or American College Testing, is a standardized entrance exam for universities in the U.S. It is employed to assess undergraduate applicants.
ACT test results are accepted by colleges and universities not only in the USA but also in the UK, Canada, Germany, and Italy. The ACT is also accepted by more than 200 universities outside of the United States. 

The test assesses your proficiency in English, math, reading, science reasoning, and essay (optional).

There are a total of 215 questions in the ACT exam, and the average time per question is 49 seconds. The components are mentioned below. The order of sections in the ACT exam are: English, Math, Reading, Science and Writing which is an optional section.

Sections No. of questions Time Test details
English 75 45 minutes It is more inclined towards questions that deal with grammar and idiomatic language.
Math 60 60 minutes It covers topics of arithmetic, algebra I & II, geometry, trigonometry, and probability & statistics.
Reading 40 35 minutes It tests the vocabulary and understanding of a candidate. There are four reading passages in ACT.
Science 40 35 minutes Unlike the SAT, the ACT has an entire section to check a candidate’s scientific aptitude.
Writing (optional) 1 prompt 40 minutes It measures writing skills.


What is the SAT exam?

The SAT, or Scholastic Assessment Test, is a standardized test for college admission in the United States. Numerous other nations, such as the UK, Canada, and Australia, choose to use the SAT scores in addition to the USA. In the United States, all four-year colleges use the SAT for undergraduate admissions.

The exam evaluates the aptitude and probability of joining a university program. It evaluates your proficiency in language, critical reading, and math.

Also read: Tips For Earning the Highest SAT Score 

 There are a total of 154 questions in the SAT exam. The components are mentioned below. The SAT exam has 65 minutes assigned to the Reading section, 35 minutes for the Writing and Language section, and 80 minutes for the Math section. The order of sections in the SAT exam are reading, writing & language, math without a calculator, and math with a calculator section.

Section No. of questions Duration Test details
Reading 72 65 It tests the vocabulary and understanding of a candidate. There are five reading passages in the SAT.
Writing and Language 44 35 It is more inclined towards questions that deal with writing style and passage structure,
Maths 58

(Calculator portion- 38

No-calculator portion- 20)

80 It covers arithmetic, geometry, algebra I & II, trigonometry, and data analysis.

Tip: Negative marking is not applied to incorrect responses. So, answer as many questions as possible.


ACT score vs SAT score comparison

Both exams have different band scores. The table below shows the conversion of these two exams.

SAT Score Range ACT Score Range (Approx. value)
590-610 9
620-640 10
650-680 11
690-720 12
730-770 13
780-820 14
830-870 15
880-910 16
920-950 17
960-980 18
990-1020 19
1030-1050 20
1060-1090 21
1100-1120 22
1130-1150 23
1160-1190 24
1200-1220 25
1230-1250 26
1260-1290 27
1300-1320 28
1330-1350 29
1360-1380 30
1390-1410 31
1420-1440 32
1450-1480 33
1490-1520 34
1530-1560 35
1570-1600 36

 Also read: 3 Tips To Improve Your SAT or ACT Score


SAT vs ACT fees

Fee type SAT ACT
Registration with essay USD 68 USD 70
Registration without essay USD 52 USD 70
Later registration USD 30 USD 35
Change fee (test center change of test date change) USD 30 USD 35
Additional score reports* USD 12 for each report USD 13 for each report

*There is no charge for the first four score reports. Reports that are requested after the first four will be charged.

Please note: The examination fees listed here are subject to change and are at the discretion of conducting bodies. For the latest updates, check the official website before applying.


SAT vs ACT: Which is easier?

There is no definitive answer to the question of ACT vs SAT, which is easier. Candidates are free to select the exam of their choice, though it is advised that they choose the one that is most appropriate for them. Candidates who are strong in Maths and Science can opt for the ACT exam, while candidates who are good in Maths, Reading and English can choose the SAT exam.

 Factors to consider before choosing the exam:

  • Exam syllabus
  • Time constraint
  • Prior knowledge level

Read on Why You Should Take Both SAT and ACT?


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