SAT or ACT — How to Decide Which Test to Take? Find Out Here!

WHEN IT COMES TO THE ACT vs. the SAT, both exams are widely accepted by U.S. colleges, which often prompts students to ask: Which test should I take?

The answer to that question lies in understanding the differences between the two tests. Both college admissions exams are wildly popular. More and more students in the last five to 10 years are taking both. The idea behind both exams is similar: to demonstrate college readiness. But despite similar aims, the tests vary in structure and timing as well as the content matter and scoring.

The two exams may have appeal to different types of students. Students with a strong English background "may flourish on the ACT," which puts more emphasis on verbal skills, while for students who are strong in math, "the SAT may reflect that much better."

ACT vs. SAT Timing:

The SAT takes three hours while ACT lasts two hours and 55 minutes, though a 40-minute optional writing test stretches it to a little more than three-and-a-half hours.

The SAT features 154 questions vs. 215 for the ACT. Broken down by test components, the SAT has a reading test that takes 65 minutes, a 35-minute writing and language test and an 80-minute math section. The ACT is comprised of a 35-minute reading test, 45-minute English test, 60-minute math section and 35-minute science test.

ACT and SAT Costs:

The costs of the exams also vary. The SAT costs $52 + Non-U.S. Regional Fee for the test Learn More. The ACT costs $150 for only the exam Learn More

SAT vs. ACT Score Conversion

For students who are interested in comparing scores on the SAT and ACT, the College Board and the ACT organization provide conversion charts to show how these composite scores stack up. According to figures from both organizations, the average SAT test score for 2019 high school graduates was 1059, and the average ACT score was 20.7

ACT or SAT: Choosing Which Test to Take

Most schools accept both the SAT and ACT, so it's really up to your readers to decide which test to take. Taking both is an option. However, for those who would like to focus their energy on achieving the best score with one test, there are a lot of factors to consider.

If a student is looking for the easier test, they're out of luck. The goal is to take the test that plays towards the strengths of the student. Things like academic skill set, study habits, and test-taking preferences can shine a light on which direction a student should take.

For those who can't decide, Magoosh created a handy quiz: SAT or ACT: Which Exam is Best for You?


Start Magoosh SAT or Magoosh ACT Prep today!