ACT vs. SAT: What Are The Differences?

ACT vs. SAT: What Are The Differences?

For high school students looking to get into college, the ACT and SAT tests are two of the most important exams. While both tests measure your academic skills, there are some key differences between

Shahar Link
March 27, 2023

For high school students looking to get into college, the ACT and SAT tests are two of the most important exams. While both tests measure your academic skills, there are some key differences between them that can make one more suitable for your needs than the other. 

Understanding these differences is essential if you want to make sure you're taking the exam that best suits your strengths. In this article, we'll explore the ACT vs. SAT debate so you can decide which test is right for you.

Whichever test you decide to take at the end of your high school journey, with Mindspire’s test prep and various resources such as personalized curriculums and practice tests, you are guaranteed to raise your SAT or ACT scores – just choose the one that fits you best, and we’ll do the rest!

You can find out even more information about the ACT and SAT exams before making your final decision by reading this article from our blog.

ACT vs. SAT: The 3 Main Differences

The ACT vs. SAT debate can feel a bit overwhelming for a young student who is not informed about the differences between the two exams. We’re here to fix that by giving an overview of the 3 most important differences between these exams.

  1. Structure

Both the SAT and ACT are standardized exams that are often used in the US for college admissions, yet they differ significantly in terms of structure. The SAT is divided into two core sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.

The ACT, on the other hand, has an optional Essay section in addition to its four primary areas of English, Math, Reading, and Science.

  1. Content

While both tests assess students' readiness for college-level work, there are some key differences in their content. The ACT has a Science section, which requires students to interpret and analyze data from experiments, while the SAT does not. 

The ACT's Math section includes trigonometry, while the SAT's Math section focuses more on algebra and problem-solving. The SAT's Reading section often includes more complex vocabulary words, while the ACT's Reading section is more straightforward in its question types. 

  1. Scoring

One of the key differences between the ACT vs. SAT is their scoring systems. The ACT uses a composite score that ranges from 1 to 36, which is calculated by averaging the scores of the four required sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. The optional Writing section is scored separately and does not factor into the composite score. 

In contrast, the SAT uses a total score that ranges from 400 to 1600, which is calculated by adding the scores of the two required sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. Since the Math section counts for half of the SAT score, students who are particularly strong or weak at math should consider this factor.

The scoring scales and ranges for the ACT and SAT are different, so it's important for students to understand how their standardized test scores compare to each respective scale.

Advantages of taking the ACT or the SAT

There are some advantages to taking the ACT over the SAT. Firstly, the ACT is known for being more straightforward and focused on testing specific subject knowledge. This can be an advantage for students who prefer a more direct approach to testing, or who excel in certain subjects like science. 

Moreover, the ACT includes a science section that is not present in the SAT, which can provide an opportunity for students who are interested in pursuing science-related majors to showcase their skills. 

The SAT, on the other hand, gives the student more time per question, so students who like to have time to think on tests might prefer the SAT. As mentioned above, the SAT is also 50% math, as opposed to 25% on the ACT, so students who are particularly strong at math might do better on the SAT.

Ultimately, the decision to take the ACT or SAT should be based on individual strengths and preferences. The best way to know is to take full practice (mock) tests of the SAT and ACT, and compare the scores to see which is better for you. Mindspire offers free online mock tests every Saturday morning at 9:30 EST.

Use The Right Resources To Prepare for Each Exam

ACT vs. SAT is an important decision for students to make when preparing for college admissions. Both the ACT and SAT tests measure the same academic skills in English, math, reading and science but have distinct differences in structure, content and scoring that can make one more suitable than the other depending on a student's strengths. 

By understanding these differences between standardized tests and using the right resources to prepare for each exam, students will be able to choose which test best suits their needs while also giving themselves a better chance at success on the test date.

Mindspire excels in preparing students for both the SAT and ACT. The students just need to settle on one, and then our expert tutors will guide them throughout the entire learning process and help them achieve the highest possible score.

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Deciding between the SAT and ACT exam can be overwhelming for students who don’t know enough about the differences between the two tests. Our new article aims to shed light on these differences and make the decision process easier.

You can read it here:

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