SAT or ACT…that is the question

The SAT and ACT are in competition for your attention and dollars. Yes, I said it, dollars. Please remember that although these tests are run by not-for-profit organizations, people are still making money, and it is in their best interest that you take their test regardless of whether it is the best test for you.  The SAT went through a radical transformation in 2016, a transformation that is making it bear a remarkable resemblance to the ACT, at least in regards to the English portions. What used to be a pretty easy decision has now become more complicated.

Both tests are challenging, but in different ways and choosing which test to take is now a personal decision based on your own abilities. Don’t base your choice on what your friends are doing, or what test your parents have heard about the most. Understand both tests and what makes them hard or easy for YOU.


The SAT currently has 5 sections–Reading, Writing & Language, No Calculator Math, Calculator Math and the Essay.

It is a 4 hour test (marathon)

Strong focus on Vocabulary

Math and Reading/Writing are equally weighted

More time for more complex questions


The ACT currently has 5 sections–English (Grammar), Math, Reading, Science, and the Essay

It is a 3.5 hour test (a marathon too-with some sprinting added in)

Strong focus on data analysis (Science section)

The first four sections are averaged to get your score, so reading, grammar and science can pull up weak math

Less time for more straightforward questions

Other considerations to think about:

When the test can be taken

  1. SAT in the United States is available in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December
  2. SAT International is available in March, May, June, October, and December
  3. ACT in the United States is available in May, June, August, September, November, January, and February
  4. ACT is available internationally in April, June, July, September, October, December, February

How it is taken

Currently the ACT in the U.S. and the SAT are written in Paper with bubble sheets. BUT International ACTs are now written on computers.

All the facts in the world won’t really help you decide which test to take. The best way is to try out each test. Free SAT tests are available through  and a Free ACT test is available at After taking both tests you will have a better sense of which one suits your abilities better.

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