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When students think of getting into college, the first thing that comes to mind is the qualifying tests. And the two most popular ones are the ACT and the SAT. Even though the Coronavirus outbreak has forced several universities to go test-optional and temporarily downplay these exams in admissions considerations, both college admissions exams are still widely used. Nearly 2.2 million students in the class of 2020 took the SAT at least once, compared to about 1.7 million who took the ACT. Although it is unknown how many students took both exams, experts claim that doing so is typical among test takers. Looking at the data for the last 5-10 years, it is seen that more and more people are talking about both tests. Students can use this resource to better understand what to anticipate from the SAT or the ACT before deciding which test to take. There are several test-specific details, frequently asked questions, and detailed aspects of both tests, such as their merits, demerits, frequency, scores, acceptance, preparation, etc. Make sure you are prepared to make an informed choice about your future if you are getting ready for college and thinking about your testing possibilities.


ACT vs SAT – Which
is What?

Both examinations have the same purpose, which is to demonstrate college preparation. However, despite sharing identical objectives, the examinations differ in format, scheduling, subject matter, and scoring. If one asks if one is easier or more difficult than the other – well, there is no definite answer for that, it depends on the individual, so it is better advised that students sit for preparatory or practice tests and then decide which one to take. But, of late, many students take both tests.

Without taking a full-length official practice test from the SAT and ACT, it is very difficult to assess a student’s true aptitude or how well they perform percentile-wise. Different categories of pupils could find interest in the two exams. One significant distinction that can be said is that students with a strong English background “may flourish on the ACT,” which places more emphasis on verbal abilities, while those with a strong math background may reflect that much better on the SAT exam.

Below are a few differentiating points between the two tests:

No. of Questions215154
Duration of the Evaluation Process3 Hours 35 Minutes3 Hours 15 Minutes
Scoring Scale1 thru 36400 thru 1,600
SubjectsMath (Calculator and Non-Calculator), Reading & WritingMath, Reading, Writing, and Optional Essay
Frequency of TestsFour Times per Year – March, May, October, and DecemberSix Times per Year – February, April, June, July, September, and October
Costs$55 to $70 (depending upon whether one takes the writing test or not)$52

Impact of Covid-19 on

When the COVID-19 epidemic struck, universities reexamined the SAT and ACT exams, and testing locations were not open to everyone. The pandemic allowed schools to reassess the value of these assessments as their popularity was already beginning to wane. When testing choices were once again accessible, some universities opted to:

  • Test-Optional (choose whether to submit your scores)
  • Test Blind (schools do not consider test results when making admissions decisions.)
  • Elimination of standardized test requirements

Even yet, passing these tests differentiates you from the competition, especially on applications with no test need. In some schools, class placements are dependent on students’ test scores.

ACT Writing Test – Take
it or Skip it?

Early in 2021, the College Board decided to discontinue the optional SAT subject and essay tests. The ACT still offers an optional 40-minute writing test as part of the examination. To take it or not is not a very straightforward answer. Some students would still like to take it, and some might not, but statistics show that the number of students taking the writing test is decreasing. But the best way students can decide whether to take it is to check with the post-secondary schools they are looking to apply for and see if they require a written test score.

Interpreting the
ACT Score

The ACT uses a scale of 1 to 36 for each section to get the final score. The average of the points from the four sections, which will range from 1 to 36, will then be used to calculate the final score. The writing component of the exam is graded on a scale of 2 to 12, according to an analytical scoring rubric, and it does not affect the exam’s overall mark.

Again, students will ultimately be able to select up to four U.S. colleges or universities to which they would like to send their test results. There will be an extra price if they transmit their scores to multiple colleges.

Interpreting the
SAT Score

The SAT scoring process does not employ an average; rather, it totals the scores from each part to arrive at the final score. A scale from 200 to 800 is used to grade the two portions: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). The final score, which will range from 400 to 1,600, will be based on the combined scores of the two portions.

Once students have obtained their scores, they will ultimately be able to select up to four U.S. colleges or universities to which they would like to send their test results. If students want to transmit their scores to multiple colleges, there will be an extra price.

ACT to SAT Score

After taking the ACT or SAT, many students might wonder, “How would I have done on the other test?” You can compare your scores even though the two tests are slightly different and have different questions.

When choosing which test you would perform better on, score conversion can be very beneficial, especially if you take an SAT or ACT practice test beforehand. When sending your final score to a school, score conversions may also be relevant. Even though most colleges accept the SAT and ACT, some may convert your score to their chosen exam to evaluate whether you qualify for enrollment.

The ACT has not formally confirmed or endorsed the conversion table that the SAT has created, so there is a potential that it is not entirely correct. Additionally, comparing the subsection scores rather than your final overall score is the most accurate way to assess how your score would translate between examinations.

Paid Tutoring &
its Worth

Taking the SAT or the ACT requires a lot of planning, studying, practicing, strategizing, and accordingly preparing. It is a daunting task for young minds. Hence, professional tutor classes are sought to make the task easier for students. But do they help as much as these companies would like you to believe?

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), whose 2009 research was reported by the NYTimes, found that test-prep tutoring programs typically increased roughly 30 SAT and 1 ACT points on average. Before the NACAC announcement, test prep programs, however, had been bragging that point gains for the SAT were closer to 255 points. As a result of the press release, many test-prep firms have since abandoned those untrue assertions.

However, for some students who find it hard to get going and motivate themselves for the test, having an expert tutor on hand to guide them through the SAT or ACT could be beneficial. But will it significantly raise their scores? For some students, it might, but it will not make much of a difference for others who are already well prepared.

Hence, whether tutoring is worth it or not entirely depends on the candidate’s requirement and how much it has impacted their scores. But for others who are self-driven and initiated, many online resources such as practice exams, study guides, and other forms of help are widely available for free. Additionally, free SAT practice tests and courses are available online thanks to a partnership between Khan Academy and the College Board, the SAT’s developer.

Frequently Asked Questions
about ACT vs SAT

Where does The SAT Test come from?

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) provides the SAT papers, and the College Board pays ETS to develop the exam. Both organizations are private businesses

Are SAT scores important?

Is it possible to cancel ACT registration?

Which test to take ACT or SAT?

Can the SAT scores be canceled?

Can the ACT scores be canceled?

Merit Scholarships
for ACT & SAT

The possibility of obtaining merit scholarships that can assist you in covering the cost of your college tuition is one of the main benefits of taking the SAT or ACT. Although student financial aid can assist you in paying for college, it is always a good idea to investigate the possibility of getting some of that expense paid by scholarships. Here are some examples:

College-Specific Awards

High SAT or ACT scores are often rewarded with scholarships from many institutions. Some of these awards may cover the tuition cost in whole or part. A partial list of some of the most popular college-specific scholarships linked to ACT or SAT achievement is provided here. You can also check your institution’s website to see if it offers merit-based scholarships. It is best to start looking into your alternatives as soon as possible because certain schools will have specific scholarships with limited application windows.

Students should consider retaking the test to improve their score if they find that their ACT or SAT score is just a little bit below the minimum required by the institution of their choice. Although a high grade does not ensure you will receive a scholarship, it does open the door for students to apply. The choice between a $2,000 scholarship and a full ride could be made by a slight increase in your score!

If you are sure of the colleges you want to attend or apply to, it is worthwhile to find out if those colleges or the states in which they are located offer any scholarships for particular GPAs on either exam.

National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC)

The highest PSAT (Preliminary SAT) scores in each state are given the National Merit Scholarship. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) offers this highly sought-after scholarship, and the PSATs are more than just SAT practice exams. Those who apply and are accepted will receive up to $2,500 from the NMSC. Still, if you identify specific colleges as your “first choice” while applying through National Merit, you may be eligible for even more financial aid – University sponsorship is the term for this. Visit the online gateway to learn more about how to enter the National Merit competition.

ACT vs SAT – Which
Test to Take?

In the end, you should choose the test that best matches your strengths, as both the ACT and SAT are accepted by most universities. You may effectively use your efforts to study, practice, and pace yourself for each component of the test once you have established which one is best for you.

Taking the SAT and the ACT simultaneously is seldom the best course of action since it can lower your overall test scores on both occasions (unless you have much free time to study). Focusing your efforts is preferable to attempting to multitask.

However, if taking both exams is your chosen course of action, make sure you give yourself enough time (at least a month) in between each one to study and become ready. After completing both, you can select the results that best reflect your abilities and send them to your chosen institution.