Comparing SAT with ACT
The ACT (an acronym for its original name, the American College Test) is a college-entrance achievement test produced by ACT, Inc. It emerged in 1959 as a competitor to the College Board's Scholastic Aptitude Test, now the SAT Reasoning Test. In February 2005, an optional writing test was added to the ACT, mirroring changes to the SAT. Almost all 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. accept and treat the ACT and SAT equally.
The ACT is more widely used in the midwest and southern United States, while the SAT is more popular on the east and west coasts. Use of the ACT by colleges has risen as a result of various criticisms of the effectiveness and fairness of the SAT.
In three states, Colorado, Illinois, and Michigan, the ACT is administered to all high school juniors as a standard to measure schools and the students. In 2008, Kentucky will join the list.
The chart below summarizes the differences between the two tests.
When is it administered?
Seven times per year
Six times per year
What is the test structure?
Ten-section exam : Three Critical Reading, three Math, three Writing, and one Experimental. The Experimental section is masked to look like a regular section.
Four-section exam : English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning. An Experimental section is added to tests on certain dates only, and is clearly experimental.
What is the test content?
Math : up to 9th grade basic geometry and Algebra II.
Science : none.
Reading: sentence completions, short and long critical reading passages, reading comprehension.
Writing: an essay, and questions testing grammar, usage, and word choice.
Math : pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, geometry, and trigonometry.
Science: charts, experiments.
Reading: four passages, one each of Prose Fiction, Social Science, Humanities, and Natural Science.
English: stresses grammar. (Include an optional essay.)
How long is the test?
3 hours 45 minutes
3 hours 30 minutes (with the 30 minutes optional essay)
Is there a penalty for wrong answers?
Yes, for the multiple choice questions
How is the test scored?
200-800 per section, added together for a combined score. A 2400 is the highest possible combined score.
1-36 for each subject, averaged for a composite score. A 36 is the highest possible composite score.
Are all scores sent to schools?
If a student requests a score report be sent to specific colleges, the report will include the scores the student received on every SAT taken. Yes.
No . There is a "Score Choice" option. Students can choose which schools will receive their scores AND which scores the schools will see.
Are there other uses for the exams?
Scholarship purposes. Certain statewide testing programs.
Need more information?
Educational Testing Service (ETS)
The College Board
Although there is no official conversion chart, several colleges have issued their own conversion chart. The following table is based on the University of California's conversion chart.
SAT (Prior to Writing Test Addition)
SAT (With Writing Test Addition)
ACT Composite Score
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