Differences Between the ACT and SAT: Which one to take?

Many universities around the world require the SAT or ACT certificate as a requirement for admission to them, which makes this test one of the keys to accessing higher education in American universities in addition to a number of universities around the world. Let us talk more about those exams, their sections, and the most important quick tips that you can follow to help you choose, prepare, and ensure success in any of those tests with a high score.

First of all, universities do not prefer one exam over the other. Universities accept both tests. Is act easier than sat? It is a matter of personal preference. Some students score fine on one test, double the score on the other, and vice versa. To determine which test is most suitable, let us compare the differences between sat and act.



The SAT is an abbreviation for the Scholastic Assessment Test, and it can be said that it is a proficiency test for admission to universities and higher education institutions in the United States of America. This exam measures the readiness of high school students to join the university, as it provides different colleges and universities with unified data for comparison between applicants.


ACT stands for American College Testing, another proficiency test used for university admission in the United States. The test covers mathematics, English, reading, and science. Also offers an optional essay writing section just like SAT.

Exam Length

One of the major differences between act and sat is test length. If we compare ACT vs SAT to decide which exam has a better length, both tests will be winners. The decision is so indevotional, and it depends on your skills and performance under time pressure. Let me explain what I mean.

The ACT is time Intensive. Such test works better for students who can answer quickly and have great time management.

  • Mathematics: 60 questions over 60 minutes (60 seconds per question)
  • English: 75 problems in 45 minutes (36 seconds per question)
  • Reading: 40 problems over 35 minutes (52.5 seconds per question)

SAT provides a lower speed experience. It works better for students who have difficulty maintaining focus and do not do well under time pressure.

  • Mathematics: 58 problems in 80 minutes (83 seconds per question)
  • Writing and Language Arts: 44 questions over 35 minutes (48 seconds per question)
  • Reading: 52 problems over 65 minutes (75 seconds per question)

For time-on-task students, the length is negligible


ACT has a science section, while the SAT does not have a science section but has scientific questions spread throughout the test. So, what is the difference between act and sat?

In both tests, Sciences questions are skill-based more than facts, which means students have to interpret graphs, data sets, and graphs. They do not need any advanced level of scientific knowledge, but ACT  has a science section.


The ACT requires more mathematical knowledge, different problems in Geometry / Algebra / Algebra 2. Most of the problems also feature some topics such as matrices and vectors, so you better be ready.

The SAT covers subjects and is primarily focused on Algebra and Algebra 2.

Use A Calculator

ACT allows using calculators for all math problems. The SAT contains 20 mathematical problems that must be solved without a calculator. Problems that students cannot use a calculator to solve, usually do not even require a calculator. Most students find that they do not need or want a calculator to answer them.

Written Essay Topics

  • The ACT asks students to choose and support a side of the argument.
  • The SAT requires students to rate another person’s written argument.

Many students find the ACT essay easier. The advantage of the ACT essay is that students choose one of the three perspectives and write the relationship with your own perspective, thus eliminating the challenge of developing a unique thesis statement. Keep in mind that the essay writing is optional in both exams and does not affect the student’s overall score. But for the SAT test, some schools may require the essay section, and that is another difference between sat and act.

Practicing Materials Available

ACT did not change its current form for a long time. This means there are more practice samples and preparation materials available for the ACT. SAT has comprehensive free exams and training materials, which the ACT does not have.

So, Should I Take the Act or Sat?

Now that you know what’s the difference between sat and act. It depends on you; However, no matter which test you prefer, once you chose, it is important to focus on just one test and work hard to master the content, formatting, and question style.

How To Prepare For The SAT Or ACT Exam?

The SAT and ACT exams are like any other exams, need study and preparation, and a certain methodology must be followed during preparation for any of them. As you can benefit from the following advice when starting to study:

1-      Familiarize Yourself With The Nature Of The Exam.

It is important that you familiarize yourself with the nature of either SAT or ACT exam and their sections and parts before choosing, as this will save you a lot of time during the exam. Knowing what is the difference between the act and sat will make you less stressed because you already have a preconceived idea.

2-      Practice The Different Exam Sections.

Of course, you should study and practice the exam sections. You can do real samples of the exam online, understand what’s the difference between act and sat, you limit yourself to a time similar to the length of the exam. Train yourself to match your resolution speed to the specified duration. This type of exams will not only contribute to your exam practicing only, but also give you a general idea of your skills, and what you need to do in order to achieve the result you aspire to, in order to enter the university you want.