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Both the ACT or SAT are both widely accepted by U.S. colleges that often cause students to wonder: Which tests should I take? Answering this question lies within knowing the differences between these two tests.

The college admissions exam and the SAT are still popular, despite the fact that numerous colleges have made the decision to go test-blind or test-optional. In 2023’s class 1.9 millions high schoolers were able to take an SAT more than once. This is an increase from 1.7 million who took the test in the class of previous years, as per College Board data. A little over 1.4 million students in 2023’s class were able to take the ACT an increase of 0.2 percent over prior year.

It’s not clear the number of students who were able to pass both tests, but experts suggest that it’s not uncommon to do this.

“No college has a preference between the two tests,” says Ginger Fay, a consultant for Green Apple College and Guidance which is a college admissions consultancy firm. “They’re like two kids. They are both loved by them alike. They just want them both to be great.”

The purpose behind both tests is to prove the student’s readiness for college. While the tests differ in their structure, time as well as content they are designed to test a student’s analytical and critical thinking skills. The experts note that some schools that made test-taking optional in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, have reverted to having admission tests.

For the majority of students it is recommended to take every exam at the least one time, advises Emily Mitchell, vice president of education at test prep and tutoring firm Sylvan Education.

“For students, now the recommendation is unless you feel like you are absolutely going to bomb it, go ahead and take it and then you should know a couple of things about the schools you’re applying to,” Mitchell states. “You must know what is the average score of the students who are accepted Is your score in the same range or higher Do you think it is higher or lower? If yes, then you should submit it. If not, it will not be used against you.”

The SAT is provided by the non-profit College Board, which also provides Advanced Placement exams as well as other test services. The non-profit ACT organization is less specialized in its scope, focusing mostly on its ACT test.

ACT and. SAT Differences

Students may are able to take both tests and perform good, whereas others score substantially better on the one test, depending on their style of learning and academic capabilities.

One of the most significant modifications are the SAT changing towards an adaptive format March 2024. This means that the test will be the test being shorter, lasting just two hours and fourteen minutes, rather than the usual three hours.

The adaptive format is the way students perform when they take a set of test questions will determine the difficulty of the next question. This technique is utilized in other standardized tests for instance, for the GRE according to Allen Koh, CEO of admissions company Cardinal Education. Students can also utilize graphing calculators in the math portion of the latest model of SAT.

The latest SAT is divided into two parts consisting of a 64-minute reading section and writing section as well as a math section lasting 70 minutes. The ACT is two hours and 55 mins and the optional 40-minute writing test could extend that to more than three and one-half hours. The ACT comprises the reading portion lasting 35 minutes as well as a an hour-long English test, a 60-minute science section, and a 35-minute math test.

“In general, the SAT is much more generous time-wise,” Koh states. “You get more time to answer each question, so you’re able to think deeply about every question. If you have trouble staying focused or you’re a slower standard test taker, the SAT is likely to be better for you.”

The SAT format changed to make questions shorter and reading passages that were lengthy were replaced with shorter ones. The new format is that one question, instead of multiple and tied to every read, Koh says.

“So if you’re not as strong of a reader or you’re less focused, the SAT could be better for you,” He states. “The paradox is that the average question on the ACT is easier, but you just get so much less time per question, and that’s what makes the ACT challenging.”

The two tests may be appealing to various types of students Experts say but it’s essential that students know the possible pitfalls. For instance the ACT contains a science portion however, it doesn’t have to measure a person’s understanding of scientific concepts. Koh says.

“The science section is more of an applied reading section than a science section,” the teacher declares. “We don’t train people in science for the science section of the ACT, we train people where to find the answers and the answers of how they’re asking these lab setup questions.”

While some students are required to take both tests, experts suggest it’s not always necessary and preparing for both tests can be an issue due to their different requirements. Each one requires different methods, and certain students are better off focusing on one rather than switching between them, Fay says.

For students to make an informed choice, experts recommend students begin with a full-length examination for every exam, and decide which is most suitable to students. A lot of schools provide PSAT or Practice ACT. PSAT or Practice ACT however, the practice tests can be found on the websites of each business.

Deciding to Take or Skip the ACT Writing Test

The College Board announced in early 2021 that it would be ending its SAT test for subject and essays that is optional. At present, the ACT offers an optional 40-minute essay test that is included with the test, but it will cost test takers an additional $25.

Experts generally agree that it is best to write the writing task seriously.

“We think it’s just better to opt in up front and then you can opt out later if you want,” Koh adds. “Do your research in terms of the universities you’re interested in. If you can’t figure that out, then you have to keep your options open and I would take the writing.”

SAT and ACT. ACT Score Conversion

Students who want to compare scores from scores on the SAT and ACT The College Board and the ACT organization offer charts of conversion to illustrate how scores from composites stack up. The table below provides details of this information.

For the SAT The total score for the SAT ranges from 400 to 1600. for the ACT The composite score ranges between 1 and 36. These ranges do not contain the additional ACT writing test that is scored separately.

SAT score
ACT equivalent

A typical SAT exam score of high school graduates in 2023 was 1028, which was lower than 1050 for 2022’s class. In the average ACT score for 2023’s class was 19.5 which was lower than 19.8 for 2022’s class. This was the sixth consecutive year that scores fell.

It’s essential to know the significance of these scores, Koh says. The SAT generally allows for three or four wrong answers to earn an ideal score, whereas test-takers could miss seven or eight of the questions and still score an exemplary mark on the ACT Koh says.

“We tend to think higher scores are easier to attain on the ACT,” the expert states. “As a college consulting firm, we believe that universities don’t care whether they receive an SAT or ACT. What they care about is percentiles and if the subsection scores make sense considering the major you have indicated.”

ACT and SAT Costs

The cost of exams are also different and have increased in the last year. In the SAT is $60. This was which is up from $52 in the past. For the ACT costs $68 just for the test, a rise from $63 in the past and $93 if a writing test is also included in comparison to $88 in the previous year.

Additional fees could be charged for alternative options like late registration. Students may also be eligible take the test and test for exams like SAT or ACT at no cost through state support as well as fee exemptions.