The Single Biggest Difference Between the ACT & SAT

While the new SAT and the ACT now have much more in common than they ever did in the past, it’s essential to understand their differences if you want to choose the right test for your skill set.

By far the biggest difference between the two tests is math. The SAT has twice as much math as the ACT does, so if you’re much stronger in math than you are in reading and grammar, the SAT gives you a far better opportunity to show off those skills. The SAT is out of 1600 points and 800 of those points come from math; the ACT is out of 36, and only a quarter of the score comes from the math section.

There are also significant differences in the format and structure of each test’s math section. The ACT math section is a relatively standard multiple-choice test that covers Algebra, Geometry, Algebra 2, and some Pre-calculus. The SAT on the other hand has two different math sections: one with a calculator, and a shorter one without a calculator. Additionally, the SAT has a handful of questions in both the calculator and the non-calculator section that are not multiple-choice.

So, if you’re confident in your math skills and are comfortable doing some problems without a calculator, the SAT lets you flex your math muscles a little more. If you’re confident in your grammar and reading skills and the thought of doing math without a calculator terrifies you, then the ACT is probably a better fit.

Either way, it’s incredibly important that you do a little bit of practice to test each one and really figure out which is a better fit. It won’t take long using resources like Khan Academy or ACT Academy to get a sense of which test you like better. Good luck!

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