Advantage Testing SAT Q&A

What is the difference between the SAT and ACT?

Both the SAT and the ACT can be taken for college admissions, and colleges do not prefer one test to the other.


  • SAT: 400–1600 composite scale
  • ACT: 1–36 composite scale

Test Length

  • SAT: 3 hours
  • ACT: 2 hours and 55 minutes + 40-minute optional essay


  • SAT: 52 questions in 65 minutes; passage-based reading comprehension; informational graphics included
  • ACT: 40 questions in 35 minutes; passage-based reading comprehension


  • SAT: 44 questions in 35 minutes; passage-based testing of grammar, usage, syntax, rhetoric, and punctuation; informational graphics included
  • ACT: 75 questions in 45 minutes; passage-based testing of grammar, usage, syntax, rhetoric, and punctuation


  • SAT: no calculator section: 20 questions in 25 minutes (including 5 grid-in questions); calculator section: 38 questions in 55 minutes (including 8 grid-in questions); trigonometry, radians, volumes, complex numbers, congruence and similarity, simple rational expressions, higher order equations, circle-related topics; emphasis on algebra, problem solving and data analysis, and certain advanced math topics
  • ACT: 60 questions in 60 minutes; can used approved calculator; all multiple choice; arithmetic, algebra I and II, planar and coordinate geometry, trigonometry and precalculus including functions, conic sections, combinations and permutations, logarithms, and matrices


  • SAT: no science section; science questions throughout the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math Tests
  • ACT: 40 questions in 35 minutes; interpretation and application of scientific data presented in tables, pie charts, bar graphs, scatter plots, etc.


  • SAT: after the June 2021 administration, the College Board will no longer administer the SAT Essay
  • ACT: 40 minutes; optional; writing and composition, analysis and development of an argument; 4 scores: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions

If you are deciding between preparing for the SAT or ACT, we recommend that you take both a timed, full-length practice SAT and a timed, full-length practice ACT. Compare your scores and your overall comfort level with each test. Then prepare for and take the test on which you feel that you will eventually perform best.

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