The chart below shows you a side by side comparison of the two tests. The best way to choose between the SAT and the ACT is to take a full practice test for each exam. Each test presents unique challenges and one may suit your child better than the other.
Both tests now have no guessing penalty, so always guess!
ACT English is similar to SAT writing. Both require the careful application of grammar and punctuation rules. These are coachable, so we expect SAT writing/ACT English scores to improve with practice. Students also need to learn editing strategies, such as when and where to add a sentence, paragraph order, and primary purpose.
SAT Reading, particularly the historical document passage, is more challenging than ACT reading. Students will encounter unfamiliar vocabulary on the SAT. ACT Reading is more detail-oriented and less focused on the big picture. However, it is faster (one passage and 10 questions every 8 ½ minutes) and will present considerable difficulty to slow readers.
SAT Math has a no calculator section that can be daunting for calculator-dependent students. The math focuses on algebra and word problems. Some questions present tables and graphs and other practical math concepts. The ACT covers a wider range of mathematical topics but does so more directly and with less nuance.
The ACT has a science section that requires the interpretation of charts, graphs, and tables under time pressure.