4 years ago
Admissions Advice

Difference between SAT and ACT and best years to take them

Hey everyone! When do you think the best years to start your SATs and ACTs are? Also, can someone explain the difference between SAT and ACT and what each of them is used for? I'm a tad confused.

Thanks so much! :)



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2 answers

Accepted Answer
4 years ago

Start them as early as you want. It is essential that you start taking them junior year, but I took the ACT for practice in sophomore year to see what I got and where I need to improve - this really isn't necessary though!

Both of them are used for the same thing, to apply for colleges and show your knowledge. Here's a good article about their differences -


I would take a practice test of both, and whichever you do better on or like more, choose that one to take. Almost all colleges will accept both. I hope this helps!

4 years ago

Both SAT and ACT are the only 2 standardized tests that most American colleges use for admissions. Here are the details of each test. Historically the SAT is the oldest standardized test and was developed for military recruitment. Later it was used for college admissions after WWII. The ACT is a newer test. Geographically, more Americans in the Midwest and South take the ACT. And more Americans living on either the East or West Coast take the SAT.

SAT - about 2.2 million take the SAT

Duration - 3 hours, and 4 hours with the option essay

Test components - English and Math

Sub-components- English (Reading 65 minutes Writing 35 minutes ), Math (Calculator questions, no-Calc Questions total 80 minutes)

Number of questions - 154 total

Score Scale - 400-1600

Score Scale for Essay - 1-4 on three parts, reading, analysis, writing X 2 essay readers for a max. score of 24 and a min of 6 points.

Cost - $64.50 with essay

Is Test curved - Yes, each test is slightly different. Sometimes the Math is curved more than English, sometimes the opposite, sometimes both.

Is there rounding of composite score - NO

Is there "super scoring"- most colleges allow super scoring but Top Ivys and Elites don't allow it.

Duration - 3 hours, and 3:45 hours with the option essay

Test components - English, Math, Reading. Science

Sub-components- English (English 45 minutes, Math 60 Minutes, Reading 35 minutes, and Science 35 minutes.

Number of questions - 215 total

Score Scale - 4-36

Score Scale for essay - 1-6 on 4 areas, (perspective, idea development, organization, communication) by 2 readers for a total range of 2-12

In addition, you receive an aggregated STEM Score which appears on your score report - the average of your MATH score and your SCIENCE Score rounded up. So if you get a 34 on math and 30 on Science, your STEM Score is a 32 but if you get a 34 MATH, 31 Science, that's 32.5 Avg rounded down to 32 STEM Score.

In addition, you receive an aggregated ELA which is your ENGLISH + READING + (ESSAY3) / 3. So if you have a 34 ENG, 34 READING, and 11 ESSAY that would be (34+34+33)/3 = 33.67 rounded down to 33 ELA.

Is there rounding of composite score - Yes. For example if your raw composite is 32 or 32.25, you get a 32. if your raw composite is 32.5 or 32.75, you get a score of 33.


Colleges that require ACT essay- https://blog.prepscholar.com/complete-list-which-colleges-require-act-writing-all-schools

Colleges that require SAT essay - https://blog.prepscholar.com/schools-that-require-the-sat-essay


-If you are someone that likes a fast-paced test with shorter answers, the ACT is better.

-If you like more time and making inferences about which answer is best, then the SAT is better.

-If you are really good at MATH, the SAT is better since 50% of the test is MATH

-If you want a test with less MATH but say a few hard questions on statistics, probability, and pre-calc. then the ACT is better. Although fewer questions, ACT math doesn't allow you a cheat sheet for the most popular Algebraic formulae.

Hope this helps everyone.

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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


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