Comparing the Standardized Tests

This page outlines the major differences between the SAT and the ACT.

Exam Scoring

The maximum possible scores for each exam are as follows:

Old SAT

Total score is the sum of the Math, Critical reading, and Writing scores.

  • 200 to 800 (Math)
  • 200 to 800 (Critical reading)
  • 200 to 800 (Writing)

Essay score (2 to 12) factored into writing score.

New SAT

Total score is the sum of the Math and Evidence-based reading and writing scores.

  • 200 to 800 (Math)
  • 200 to 800 (Evidence-based reading/writing)

Essay is scored from 2 to 8 for each of three traits for the essay (not factored into the total score).

ACT

Composite score is the average of the English, Math, Reading, and Science scores.

  • 1 to 36 (English)
  • 1 to 36 (Math)
  • 1 to 36 (Reading)
  • 1 to 36 (Science)

Essay score is not factored into composite score.

Exam Length

The times below do not factor in any breaks or buffer time allocated during official administrations.

 

 

3 hours & 45 minutes

(essay included)

3 hours

+ 50 minutes (optional essay)

 

2 hours & 55 minutes

+ 40 minutes (optional essay)

 

 

Exam Structure

The order may vary during official administrations.

  • Critical Reading (70 minutes)
  • Writing (35 minutes)
  • Math (70 minutes)
  • Essay (25 minutes)
  • Math – Calculator Allowed (55 minutes)
  • Math – No Calculator (25 minutes)
  • Reading Test (65 minutes)
  • Writing & Language Test (35 minutes)
  • Optional Essay (50 minutes)
  • English (45 minutes)
  • Math (60 minutes)
  • Reading (35 minutes)
  • Science (35 minutes)
  • Essay (40 minutes)

Math Content

  • Numbers & Operations
  • Algebra & Functions
  • Geometry & Measurement
  • Data Analysis, Statistics, & Probability
  • Heart of Algebra
  • Problem Solving and Data Analysis
  • Passport to Advanced Math
  • Additional Topics in Math
  • Pre-Algebra
  • Elementary Algebra
  • Intermediate Algebra
  • Coordinate Geometry
  • Plane Geometry
  • Trigonometry

Reading & Writing Content

Reading Content

  • Passage Based Reading
  • Sentence Completions

Writing Content

  • Identifying Sentence Errors
  • Improving Sentences
  • Improving Paragraphs
  • Words in Context
  • Command of Evidence
  • Analysis in History/Science/Social Studies
  • Rhetoric & Synthesis
  • Expression of Ideas
  • Standard English Conventions

Reading Content

  • Reading Comprehension (passage based)

Writing Content

  • Punctuation
  • Grammar/Usage
  • Sentence Structure
  • Strategy
  • Organization and Style

Science Content

No science section.

No science section.

  • Data Representation
  • Research Summaries
  • Conflicting Viewpoints

 

Guessing Penalty

Guessing penalties are enforced by deducting points from the student’s raw score for incorrect answers.

-0.25 points for every incorrect answer on multiple choice questions.

No guessing penalty!

No guessing penalty!