Is the SAT Harder Than ACT? the Differences

Is the SAT Harder Than ACT? the Differences

Here’s what you need to know about SAT and ACT, and how you can personally determine which is “harder” or “easier” for you.

Most universities respect and accept both the ACT and the SAT equally. Prior to making an admissions decision, colleges compare applicants using these scores. Consequently, which is harder?

To help you choose the right test, let’s examine the SAT and ACT’s similarities and distinctions.

What is the ACT?

The ACT, a nonprofit organization, is responsible for administering the ACT. There are four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. A maximum score of 36 is awarded for each of the four sections, with a scale of 1 to 36 used for grading. All four scores are then averaged to come to the “composite ACT score.” The exam also has an optional writing test.


The ACT lasts for 2 hours and 55 minutes; if you choose to take the writing section, it will take an additional 40 minutes. A total of 215 questions—75 in English, 60 in math, and 40 in each reading and science—are on the test.

What is the SAT?

The two sections of the SAT, which is given by the College Board, are math and evidence-based reading and writing. Your SAT combined score is determined by adding the scores from each section, which are graded on a scale of 200 to 800 points. Read More: What To Bring To SAT?

Therefore, 1600 is the highest possible SAT score. The SAT essay was eliminated in 2021, so it is no longer offered. Further Reading: How Many Questions on the SAT?


Students must spend three hours taking the SAT. The test has 154 multiple-choice questions, 52 reading questions, 44 writing and language questions, and 58 math questions.

Things to Consider Which is Easier for You

When determining your aptitude and readiness for post-secondary education, the ACT and SAT differ significantly despite being similar to standardized tests. The SAT is regarded as a psychological test that assesses learning aptitude, whereas the ACT is more of a placement test that serves as a measure of academic achievement and readiness.

How Broad is Your Mathematical Knowledge?

While both the SAT and ACT place a strong emphasis on algebra questions in their math sections, the ACT’s Math section typically tests a wider variety of mathematical ideas that the SAT doesn’t cover, including logarithms, graphs of trig functions, and matrices.

In comparison to the SAT, the ACT has significantly more questions covering geometry and trigonometry. In contrast to the SAT, where less than 10% of the math questions are about geometry or trigonometry, the ACT’s math section contains about 25% to 30% of questions about these subjects.

Algebra will appear in more SAT Math questions, in addition to some other subjects like data analysis and modeling.

The ACT does not provide you with any math formulas at the start of the Math section, so you must have them all memorized. It also tests a wider range of math topics. The majority of the key math formulas you’ll need for the test, however, are provided in the SAT.

How Confident Are You Without a Calculator?

Part of the SAT Math section prohibits the use of calculators by students. The SAT Math section is divided into two sections: the No Calculator section (20 questions), and the Calculator section (38 questions). By contrast, the ACT allows you to use a calculator for all math questions.

The SAT No-Calculator subsection contains questions that can all be answered by hand, but these calculations can occasionally be challenging. If you aren’t comfortable solving these questions without having a calculator to help you out, this part of the You may find the SAT to be difficult.

Are You Comfortable With Scientific Terminology for ACT Science?

Many people make a big deal out of the ACT Science section, but in actuality, it has nothing to do with science. It doesn’t test much knowledge of actual scientific facts, such as freezing points or solubility rules, but it does use a lot of scientific languages.

Students with a strong background in science will also be familiar with the charts and graphs used in the Science section.

Even though the three sections of the SAT include some of these ideas, the ACT will still require you to respond to more questions of this nature.

That said, it’s a lot faster and easier if you do know these things. Additionally, since the Science section contributes to your overall ACT composite score, if you don’t know Science well, it will reflect negatively on your score.

Can You Remember the Location of Details in Reading Passages?

The specific questions on each test’s Reading section are a frequently disregarded factor when determining whether the SAT or ACT is simpler for a student. In summary, you have more information to work with on the SAT than you do on the ACT.

Is the SAT Harder Than ACT? the Differences

Consider this: do you typically remember where the various pieces of information are located in reading after reading about two pages of an academic book? Or do you need to read it again to find specific information? Depending on how you respond to these questions, your reading scores on the SAT and ACT may vary.

This is due to the treatment of details in each test’s Reading section being a significant, albeit odd, difference between the SAT and ACT. The SAT will typically tell you what line they are referring to, whereas the ACT frequently does not, even though both tests have questions about a minute, specific details from the readings.

Almost every question on the SAT has a line number. Even if they don’t, SAT Reading questions always proceed in chronological order. As a result, even if you aren’t given a specific line reference, you will know roughly where the important information is located.

How Easily Can You Cite Evidence for Your Answers?

The SAT, unlike the ACT, has reading comprehension questions that are known as evidence-support questions.

These are two-part questions; the first will ask you a general question about the passage, and the second will require you to cite specific evidence to back up your response to the first question.

You’re unlikely to correctly answer the second question if you’re having trouble with the first one. However, if you take the ACT, you won’t have to worry about questions like these in the Reading section.

Which Types of Writing Questions Do You Prefer?

There are passage-based questions in the Writing/English sections of both the SAT and the ACT, but the subjects on which these questions are focused vary between the two exams.

Grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure are slightly more stressed on the ACT English exam. In contrast to SAT Writing, this section also includes broad-stroke questions that inquire about the passage’s main idea.

ACT vs. SAT — Expert Tutoring for the ACT and SAT

The SAT, on the other hand, focuses more on questions about writing style. It also contains what is referred to as precision questions, for which you must choose the most suitable word or phrase. The SAT tends to test vocabulary a little more than the ACT does due to precision and other questions of a similar nature.

Are You Able to Avoid Getting Stuck on Challenging Questions?

It’s simple for many students to become preoccupied with trying to solve a particularly difficult problem, especially in the Math sections of both tests and the Science section of the ACT. This can result in spending four or five minutes on a single question and skipping other ones as a result.

What makes this so crucial? The ACT gives much less time per question.

The difference between the writing sections of the ACT and SAT is only 12 seconds per question, but the reading sections of the two exams are 22 seconds apart—almost half a minute longer per question!

The ACT also provides much less time per question for the Math sections. On the SAT Math Calculator subsection, you’ll get about 86 seconds per question; however, you’ll get 26 seconds less on each ACT Math question.

How to Choose Between the SAT and ACT?

You now have a clear understanding of how each test varies in terms of length, nature of the questions, and format after reading this article.

The ACT does not penalize guessing and has optional writing sections, whereas the SAT does penalize guessing and requires writing sections, so it all depends on how well you can respond to questions and their scoring criteria.

Science knowledge is essentially useless for this section of the ACT because it is not scientific knowledge that is tested, but rather critical reading of science passages.

A Harder SAT: College Board release foreshadows the most challenging test  to date – Experts Corner | Applerouth

Trigonometry is covered in the ACT but not in the SAT. The ACT is shorter in length than the SAT, which typically takes three hours and twenty-five minutes to complete. If you switch from taking the SAT to the ACT, preparation is minimally required.

It is best to spend two weeks cross-studying each test before deciding which one is right for you. Some people suggest that you take both exams and submit the one with the higher score.

Do Colleges Prefer the ACT Or the SAT?

Colleges don’t favor one over the other. Either will be accepted. However, it’s also crucial to keep in mind that some schools have made these exams elective. This means that you are not required to submit your test score but are free to do so.

However, it’s generally still recommended that you sit for either exam because even though they’re not “required,” having those test results could break the tie between you and another student.

However, there are some areas of the nation where people favor taking one exam over another. For instance, the south prefers the ACT while the northeast prefers the SAT. You are not, however, bound by your location! You can take the ACT for free if you reside in New York (I did!).

The ACT is not necessarily more difficult than the SAT, despite the fact that a student may feel as though it is. Your unique talents are everything in this situation!

Colleges and universities require applicants to have specific test results. To increase your chances of receiving an approval letter, it’s crucial to choose the test that’s right for you.

Final Thoughts: SAT Or ACT?

Your familiarity with each exam’s material will determine which is simpler, the SAT or the ACT. Bottom line: For students who are strong in math and desire more time to answer questions, the SAT may be simpler. The ACT might be a better choice for you if you identify as a science nerd who enjoys reading and works well under pressure.

The best chance of success comes from taking the necessary precautions to get ready for the exams, being aware of each test’s objective, and selecting the one that best suits your learning preferences.

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