SATSince I have had over 700 students take our 60 Second ACT vs. SAT Assessment, I have noticed that the majority of students come out favoring the SAT. That said, I decided to drill down to find out why.

FYI: The 60 Second ACT vs. SAT Assessment consists of 11 either/or questions based on skill set and learning preferences. Roughly 70% have favored the SAT. Even though about 60% of those favor it by one point, those who favor the SAT 7+ points exceed 60%.

Here’s what I know about the exams based upon the skill sets tested as well as the test formats:


  1. The reading passage questions tend to be in order on the SAT whereas on the ACT, that’s often not the case. Scanning through the passages to find answers to questions can eat up the clock.


  1. The four reading passages on the ACT average 800-1000 words; on the SAT the 5 reading passages average 600-800 words. Each passage has 10 questions. (Two passages on the SAT have 11 questions.) Students have 8.75 minutes per passage on the ACT where they have 13 minutes on the SAT. That’s roughly 43% more time on the SAT.


  1. More questions on the SAT tend to revolve around the point of the passage rather than extraneous details as on the ACT. Students who become adept in identifying the thesis – the foundation piece of our test prep programs – can go through the passages with more rapidity and accuracy.


  1. Though the grammar sections on the ACT and SAT are pretty much the same – College Board essentially ‘stole’ the ACT format – the rhetoric questions are generaly worded much clearer on the SAT. SAT allotted 33% more time on this section relative to the ACT.


  1. The math sections on the SAT focus more on Algebra II/trigonometry and correlate more with school level math (as does the ACT); however, the ACT math tests a wider range of math concepts – particularly leaning toward geometry. Also, about 15 percent of the questions involve using advanced mathematical concepts; on the SAT it’s merely about knowing them. This often makes it more of a challenge for students who don’t excel in math as you never know when the ACT will through a ‘curve ball’.


  1. Averaged together, the non-calculator and calculator sections average about 45% more time than the ACT. ACT: 60 seconds (one minute) per question; SAT: 83 seconds per question (1 minute 13 seconds) per question.


  1. Though the SAT does have a non-calculator math section – unlike the ACT where a calculator can be used throughout – once students learn our time saving strategies not dependent on a calculator, the section is rarely a challenge, especially relative to the more challenging math level on the ACT.


  1. The ACT math has 5 choices rather than 4 as on the SAT. Having to deal with an additional choice also serves to make the math questions slightly harder and eats up additional time on the clock.


  1. Unlike the SAT, the ACT has a separate Science section. This is really not testing Science knowledge – it’s about being able to read and interpret charts and graphs. Once students learn the strategies for the four types of Science passages, most find it not that challenging. The problem is many are drained by the time they get to this final section on the exam. Bottom line, the Science section is a major casualty of the ‘fatigue factor’. (The SAT has 2-3 charts and graphs sprinkled through the reading and writing sections.)


CAVEAT:  This is not to say that there are not MANY students who will do better on the ACT or who would be better served to try both exams. To find out what’s best for YOUR teen, click here to schedule an introductory call.


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