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    ACT vs. SAT

    A nifty comparison chart

    ACTSAT
    WEBSITEactstudent.orgsat.collegeboard.org/home
    TEST DATESOffered six times per school year—September, October, December, February, April, JuneOffered seven times per school year—October, November, December, January, March, May, June
    TEST LENGTH215 questions plus an optional essay in 3 hours and 25 minutes (includes 30 minutes for the optional Writing section)140 questions and a required essay in 3 hours and 45 minutes
    WHAT IS TESTEDThe ACT is designed as an achievement test. It assesses a student’s knowledge of the subjects taught in high school.The SAT is designed as an aptitude test. It measures literacy and writing skills, and it assesses how well a student analyzes and solves problems.
    MAJOR SECTIONSFour major sections—English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. A fifth section (Writing) is optional.Three major sections—Mathematics, Critical Reading, and Writing.
    SUBJECTS COVEREDEnglish: A 75-question, 45-minute section that measures standard written English and rhetorical skills. Questions are largely focused on grammar, punctuation, and syntax, with less emphasis on vocabulary.

    Mathematics: 60 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes. A few questions require trigonometry. All of the problems can be solved without a calculator, but you’ll be permitted to use one as long as it’s included on the list of permitted calculators on the ACT website.

    Reading: A 40-question, 35-minute test to measure reading comprehension.

    Science: A 40-question, 35-minute test that measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences. You aren’t allowed to use a calculator during this section.

    Optional Writing Test: A 30-minute optional essay.

    Critical Reading: Includes reading passages and sentence completion, and places more emphasis on vocabulary than the ACT does.

    Mathematics: Multiple-choice questions as well as some that require written answers covering arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics, and probability. Trigonometry is not tested. All of the problems can be solved without a calculator, but you’ll be permitted to use one as long as it’s included on the list of permitted calculators on the SAT website.

    Writing: A mandatory essay as well as some multiple-choice questions about grammar and word usage.

    LEVEL OF DIFFICULTYQuestions have a fairly constant level of difficulty throughout the test.Questions tend to become more difficult as the test progresses
    INCORRECT ANSWER PENALTYThere is no penalty for wrong answers.A ¼-point penalty is given for each wrong answer except for the grid-in (not multiple choice) questions in the Math section.
    MAX. SCORE362,400