With the new redesigned SAT, these tests are more alike than different. Similarities include: length of test, multiple choice format with optional essays, and tests for Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. US Colleges accept scores from either ACT or SAT (or both). Both tests offer accommodations such as extra time.
Here are some of the differences that may cause a student to do better on one test vs. the other:
- ACT has more questions in less time. You cannot waste a second. For example, in the ACT English there are 75 questions in 45 minutes - a pace of 36 seconds per question! On the SAT Writing and Language, there are only 44 questions in 35 minutes, for a pace of 47 seconds per question.
- ACT has a science section; the SAT includes science in the Reading and Math sections. Both tests are not really testing your command of science. Instead, they are testing your ability to read charts and analyze data.
- You can always use your calculator on the ACT Math section. The SAT has a “No-Calculator” math section of 20 questions and a “Calculator OK” section of 38 questions.
- The SAT provides a “cheat sheet” of formulas and relationships that you may need on the Math test. The ACT expects you to memorize these. Examples include area of shapes, special right triangles, and number of degrees in various shapes. Remember Pythagoreas' theroem? You will need it on the ACT!
- Focus of the optional essays are very different. The SAT asks you to read a passage and then analyze what you read. The ACT asks you to take a position on a contemporary concern and address three different perspectives.