SAT or ACT – Which should you prefer?

The ACT tries to determine the accomplishments of the candidates on the basis of the knowledge that they have acquired through the high school curriculum. On the other hand, SAT, as the name refers is predominantly an aptitude test that measures the reasoning and verbal skills of the candidates.

SAT and ACT: Things to know

According to the new adaptation of SAT that was introduced by the College Board during the year 2005, it should contain a compulsory writing test but the ACT does not require the students to take the writing test compulsorily and it is only to be taken when the particular college in which the candidate has applied asks for the same.

Therefore, the ACT comprises of four compulsory sections and one optional section:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Optional Writing Test

The SAT consists of only three sections:

  • Critical Reasoning
  • Mathematics
  • Compulsory Writing Test

While the scores of ACT are decided on the basis of the correct answers and there is no negative marking for a wrong answer, in SAT, marks are deducted for negative answers.

Precisely, the SAT is an examination that contains three categories or sections and continues for more than three hours. The questions that are asked in SAT are multiple choice types and an ideal score for the test would be 2400 i.e. each section should fetch 800. The ACT contains four sections of questions and the scores for each section are averaged for attaining a consolidated score. The series of scores in this test consists of 1 to 36 and 36 is undoubtedly an ideal score barring the optional writing section for which the scores are allotted separately.

SAT or ACT - Which one should you prefer?

For those aspirants, who are trying to obtain admission in colleges after attending high school, whether to take the SAT or ACT remains the most critical question in their minds. One can however consider the possibilities of several tests for the preparation of SAT ACT that are published by College Board and this is significant for not only obtaining admission in colleges but also to get scholarships for pursuing studies. It is to be noted that both the examinations are designed in a different manner and determine separate attributes of a candidate. The examinations should therefore be taken on the basis of personal abilities and limitations. Due to this twin dilemma, of whether one should take SAT or ACT, some candidates are now considering sitting for both the examinations in order to determine which test is a better option for their studies and career.

Deciding Factors

Broadly speaking, the SAT includes three categories and the ACT contains four categories along with an optional writing test. If a candidate possesses good skills in mathematics, ACT will certainly come out as a better option because the examinations consist of questions on algebra and trigonometry. On the other hand, SAT would be a better option for those with strong sense of grammar and English vocabulary; also, if you are not so good in the interpretation of scientific data, SAT should be preferred without second thoughts. As we have already discussed, SAT also contains an additional section, wherein the students are supposed to write an essay compulsorily although in ACT, this section is not mandatory and its required only by some colleges.


In short, it is difficult to decide whether students should prefer SAT or ACT because the results of the test may vary from one candidate to the other. The best way therefore is to take both the tests during the junior year and decide which one is more suitable and ideally, the students should take both the tests on the basis of their confidence and conviction of achieving winning scores.