The ACT and SAT are both timed standardized multiple choice tests used by colleges and universities to determine “college readiness”. But what are their differences?

ACT

  • Consists four sections (English, Math, Science, and Reading). There is also an optional Writing section.
  • You earn a point for every right answer and are not penalized for wrong or blank answers, which gives you a raw score. Your raw score is then scaled to score between 1 to 36. The average of your section (subsection) scores create the composite score.
  • Is the preferred test for colleges and universities in the southeast part of the US.
  • Costs $39.50 for the test without Writing  section and $56.50 with Writing section.

SAT

  • Consists three sections (Math, Critical Reading, and Writing). There is also an Experimental section that does not count in the scoring. It’s just there for data collecting purposes.
  • The raw score is calculated as 1 point for every question you got right minus 0.25 for every questions you got wrong. Skipped questions don’t count for anything. Each section is scaled to a score between 200-800 points. The total score is calculated by adding up the subscores.
  • Costs $54.50 to take.

Which one should you take?

The answer to that question depends on the college or university you are applying to. Colleges will have this information on their website and brochures. As a rule of thumb, colleges in The South (or southeastern part of the US) prefer the ACT while schools everywhere else prefer the SAT.

Also there are equivalent scores for each test, so if you take the “wrong” test the college will still accept your scores.