Compare the SAT to the ACT

beginning of content:

Taking the SAT is the best way to show colleges you have the skills and knowledge they want most.

And because you have seven chances each year to test, more time for each question, and access to free practice tools, you'll see that the SAT offers advantages the ACT doesn't.

Find out other ways the SAT compares to the ACT* before taking your next step to plan for college.

Register for the SAT.

Practice for the SAT.

Learn about the skills and knowledge tested on the SAT.

Test Snapshot
Features SAT ACT
Widely accepted All U.S. colleges All U.S. colleges

What students learn in high school

What they need to succeed in college

What students learn in high school
Everyday math formulas provided Yes No
Tests the vocabulary you’ll use Yes Yes
Essay is optional Yes Yes
Penalty for guessing No No
Free Practice
Resources SAT ACT
Free daily practice questions Yes, through the free Daily Practice for the SAT mobile app. Yes
Free personalized test practice Yes, through Khan Academy®, with over 4,000 questions and video lessons. No
Multiple free practice tests Yes, 8 downloadable practice tests with instant scoring. No, only 1 practice test
Mobile app that instantly scores paper tests Yes, Daily Practice for the SAT. No
Schedule SAT ACT
Future test administration dates 3 years 2 years
Regular registration deadline About 4 weeks before test day. You pay a late fee for registering later. About 5 weeks before test day. You pay a late fee for registering later.
Late registration closes About 11 days before test day 20+ days before test day
Test days 7 times a year 7 times a year
Fee Waivers
Benefits and Rules SAT ACT
Test fees waived for eligible students Yes Yes
Automatically unlocks all fee waiver benefits after one-time use Yes No
Waivers cover late fees Yes No
Score reports Unlimited 20 score reports
Waived application fees at participating colleges Yes No
Score services Yes, either Question-and-Answer Service (QAS) or Student Answer Service (SAS) for SAT administrations Yes, Test Information Release for 3 administrations
A fee reduction for multiple-choice score verification or essay score verification Yes No
Free applications to apply for financial aid from participating schools Yes, students can use CSS Profile to apply for financial aid No
Expiration date No Expire end of August each year
Test Format
Structure and Timing SAT ACT
Testing time 3 hours
+ 50-minute essay (optional)
2 hours 55 minutes
+ 40-minute essay (optional)
Structure 3 tests + optional essay 4 tests + optional writing test
Number of questions 154 215
Time per question 1 minute, 10 seconds 49 seconds
Score range Composite 400–1600 (SAT Essay: reported in 3 dimensions, each 2–8) Composite 1–36 (writing domain scores: 2–12)
Test components

Reading Test
65 minutes
52 questions

Writing and Language Test
35 minutes
44 questions

Math Test
80 minutes
58 questions

Reading Test
35 minutes
40 questions

English Test
45 minutes
75 questions

Math Test
60 minutes
60 questions

Science Test
35 minutes
40 questions


*Based on publicly released ACT information as of September 26, 2018.