ACT® vs. SAT®

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(Scored out of 36)

1. English (45 min.)

  • Usage & Mechanics (punctuation, grammar, word usage, sentence structure)
  • Rhetorical Skills (style, strategy, and organization)

2. Math (60 min.)

  • Algebra
  • Coordinate & Plane Geometry
  • Trigonometry

3. Reading (35 min.)

  • Tone and Mood
  • Main Idea and Generalization
  • Cause and Effect and Comparison
  • Passage Topics: Literary Narrative, Social Studies, Humanities, and Natural Sciences

4. Science (35 min.)

  • Data Interpretation (Tables, Charts, Diagrams)
  • Experimental Design
  • Opposing Viewpoints

TOTAL TIME - 2 hOURs 55 minutes


(Scored out of 1600)

1. Reading (65 min.)

  • Words in Context
  • Command of Evidence
  • Passage Topics: Literature, History and Social Studies, Founding Document or Great Global Conversation, Science

2. Writing & Language (35 min.)

  • Words in Context (concision vs. precision, style, tone)
  • Command of Evidence (analyzing relevance and supporting detail)
  • Expression of Ideas (syntax, organization, and essay structure)
  • Standard English Conventions (syntax, usage, and punctuation)

3. Math: Non-Calculator (25 min.)

  • Heart of Algebra (linear equations, systems of linear equations, and inequalities)
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis (ratios, proportions, percentages, units, quantitative data, probabilities)
  • Passport to Advanced Math (equivalent algebraic expressions, quadratic equations, exponential functions, other nonlinear equations and functions)
  • Additional Topics in Math (basic trigonometry, geometry)

4. Math: Calculator (55 min.)

  • Same as Non-Calculator Math (see above)

TOTAL TIME - 3 hours 0 minutes

    Side-by-Side Comparison


    Total Testing Time: 2 hours, 55 minutes


    Total Testing Time: 3 hours, 0 minutes

    • ACT is ½ Evidence-Based Reading
      • Both Reading and Science sections test close-reading skills (ability to locate facts or details in a passage)
        • SAT is ½ Mathematics
          • Two separate Math sections (Calculator and Non-Calculator) test identical concepts
        • ACT Math: Mental calculations optional
          • Calculator permitted for all 60  questions
          • Math section is entirely multiple-choice
          • Greater breadth of content (algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus)
        • SAT Math: Mental calculations required
          • Calculator prohibited for 20 of 58 questions
          • Math sections contain some non-multiple-choice
          • Heavily weighted toward in-depth knowledge of algebra
        • ACT Reading: Demanding pace
          • 9 minutes per passage
          • Vocabulary questions test nuances of common words with multiple meanings
        • SAT Reading: More comfortable pace
          • 13 minutes per passage
          • Vocabulary presented in questions and answer choices skews more scholarly
        • ACT Science: Unique to ACT
          • Requires data interpretation and knowledge of experimental method
          • Students should be comfortable reading scientific abstracts and terminology
        • SAT Science: Does not exist
          • No separate Science section
          • Isolated data interpretation questions are included in both SAT Verbal sections