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What is the difference between the SAT and ACT? They’re both standardized tests and they both factor into the college admissions process. To learn about the differences between the two tests and how they compare, take a look at the chart below.

When is it administered?

  • SAT: Seven times per year
  • ACT: Six times per year

What is the test structure?

  • SAT: Ten-section exam: Three Critical Reading, three Math, three Writing, and one Experimental. The Experimental section is masked to look like a regular section.
  • ACT: 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?

  • SAT: 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.
  • ACT: Math: up to trigonometry. Science: charts, experiments. Reading: four passages, one each of Prose Fiction, Social Science, Humanities, and Natural Science. English: stresses grammar.  The ACT Plus Writing is a 30-minute essay test that measures your writing.

Is there a penalty for wrong answers?

  • SAT: Yes
  • ACT: No

How is the test scored?

  • SAT: 200-800 per section, added together for a combined score. A 2400 is the highest possible combined score.
  • ACT: 1-36 for each subject, averaged for a composite score. A 36 is the highest possible composite score.

Are all scores sent to schools?

  • SAT: No. Students can select which scores they send to colleges by sitting (test date) for the SAT. The score-reporting feature is optional–if students do not use it, all scores will be sent automatically.
  • ACT: 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?

  • SAT: Scholarship purposes.
  • ACT: Scholarship purposes. Certain statewide testing programs.

Best time to register?

  • SAT: At least six weeks before the test date
  • ACT: At least four weeks before the test date

Which colleges and universities superscore the ACT?

  • Amherst College, Babson College, University of Colorado, Eckerd College, Elon University, George Washington University, University of Illinois, University of Indiana, Lawrence University, Loyola Marymount University, University of Miami, Northeastern University, Pepperdine University, University of Puget Sound, Stanford University, Washington & Lee University, Washington University in St. Louis, and Wesleyan University.

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