Evaluating Exams

The differences between the ACT and SAT


Kurt Strazdins

“20020131 SAT” by Kurt Strazdins as Adobe Photoshop graphic, from the Tribune News Service.

Testing is an important part of applying to colleges and universities. Both the American College Testing (ACT) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) are lengthy tests that colleges look at from students. Although the ACT and SAT both test students’ knowledge, the exams are different. Some universities accept only the ACT whereas some only accept the SAT. Some colleges will accept either. At the end of the day, the test depends on each student’s preferences and which colleges they are seeking to attend.

The ACT is composed of four different sections and an optional essay. The subjects that are being tested are English, Math, Reading and Science Reasoning. However, the SAT tests three different subjects and an optional essay. The subjects included are Reading, Writing & Language and Math, all according to princetonreview.com

“I took the ACT at school because the colleges I’m looking at only accepted it,” senior Eboni Thomas said. “Even though it was hard to prepare for and took a long time, it was all worth it in the end.”

Each test has different scoring methods. The ACT has a 1-36 scale, and the SAT has a 400-1600 scale. Both tests have each subject of the test graded individually and then a composite score altogether.

“Taking the [SAT] was fine, it was just really long,” senior Deidra Sinkey said. “It felt like I was taking a different version of the ACT. Compared to the ACT I did a little bit worse.”


  • Subjects Tested:
    English, Math, Reading and Science Reasoning
  • Scoring Process:
    1-36 scoring scale
  • Length of Test:
    3 hours (without essay)
  • Calculator Policy:
    Some math questions do not allow a calculator


  • Subjects Tested:
    Reading, Writing & Language and Math
  • Scoring Process:
    400-1600 scoring scale
  • Length of Test:
    2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)