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.

Test Snapshot
Features New SAT ACT
Widely accepted All U.S. colleges Almost all U.S. colleges
Major redesign 2016 SAT is based on the latest research on the skills colleges value most. No recent significant revisions.
Tests the vocabulary you’ll use Yes Yes
Everyday math formulas provided Yes No
Essay is optional Yes Yes
Penalty for guessing No No
Free Practice
Resources New SAT ACT
Free daily practice questions Yes, the free mobile app, Daily Practice for the New SAT. Yes
Free comprehensive test practice Yes, through Khan Academy®, with over 4,000 questions and video lessons. No
Free, downloadable practice tests Yes No
Mobile app that instantly scores paper tests Yes, Daily Practice for the New SAT. No
Flexibility
Schedule New SAT ACT
Test days 7 times a year 6 times a year
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
Fee Waivers
Benefits and Rules New SAT ACT
Test fees waived for eligible students Yes Yes
Waivers cover late fees Yes No
Four college application fee waivers sent directly to eligible students Yes No
Test Format
Structure and Timing New 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 length and timing

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 28, 2015.