SAT Suite

Should You Take the SAT or ACT?

You may have heard that colleges in some states prefer the ACT while others gravitate towards the SAT®. This is a common misconception. Colleges don’t have a preference between the SAT or ACT so it’s important to know how to choose the test that’s right for you.  Both tests are widely accepted across U.S. colleges—including those that are test optional. The SAT is never administered on the same date as the ACT. Depending on your strengths, the SAT may be your best test. Since the SAT will be digital starting in March 2024, there’s a lot of advantages.  

When it comes down to final decisions, the choice of taking the SAT or ACT doesn’t have to keep you up at night. Some students take both, review their scores, and then decide which to submit to colleges. To decide, understand the basics, your strengths and weaknesses as a test taker, and then do a bit of prep work! 


At a Glance Comparison

Features SAT ACT*
Format Digital everywhere Paper in most places
Length About 2 hours About 3 hours
Timing 98 questions / 134 minutes (1 minute 22 seconds per question) 215 questions / 175 minutes (49 seconds per question)
Reading Passages Short with one question each Long with several questions each
Seperate science section No (science reasoning is measured across test sections) Yes
Built-in math reference sheet  Yes No
Built-in graphing calculator Yes No
    *Based on publicly released ACT information.

Rather than focusing on how well you can recall information, and your test taking speed, the SAT emphasizes the skills you’ll need to succeed in college and your career and your ability to apply them in real-world scenarios. This is one of the reasons why you’ll find everyday math formulas and a built-in graphing calculator provided during the test. The digital test also has short reading passages and represents a diverse library of content.  


Timing and Flexibility

Whether you plan to take the SAT or ACT, or both, it’s a decision that you should make sooner rather than later. You’ll want to give yourself enough time to practice and prepare and register for a test date that works for you. Both the SAT and ACT offer seven weekend test dates a year. You can also ask your counselor if your school offers the SAT on a school day.  

SAT Test Dates

ACT Test Dates


Test Length and Timing

Testing for the SAT takes place during a 2-hour time span and gives you 67% more time per question than the ACT. If you’re taking the SAT School Day, you may have the optional essay portion. The two main sections are broken down into a Reading Test with 54 questions, and a math test with 44 questions. 

Testing for the ACT takes three hours and can also include an additional essay portion. Its four sections are broken down by a Reading Test (40 questions), an English Test (75 questions), a Math Test (60 questions), and a Science Test (40 questions). 

With the SAT having a total of 98 questions and the ACT having 215, timing is worth considering for each of these tests.  


Free Test Prep Tools 

Knowing how soon you’ll be taking the SAT or ACT will help you prepare. After all, you wouldn’t run a marathon without building up your endurance beforehand, would you? Test prep is a similar concept. 

You’ll need to become familiar enough with your exam of choice in order to best estimate where your strengths and weaknesses may lie. Once you’ve done so, you can begin to focus on the areas you’ll need to improve before test day. With a limited amount of time for answering each question, you’ll want to learn how to pace yourself accordingly and to guess only when time demands that you move on.  

Official practice tools for the SAT are completely free and include four full-length practice tests in Bluebook and Official Digital SAT Prep on Khan Academy.  



SAT scores range from 400–1600. There is no such thing as a failing score and colleges consider many other factors in addition to your SAT score when reviewing applicants. 

For the ACT, scores are a composite ranging from 1–36. Writing domain scores for the optional essay portion are given on a scale of 2–12.  

Want to compare your SAT score to your ACT? We have a concordance to help you with that. You’ll be able to see score equivalency. For instance, if you get a total score of 1050 on the SAT (the national average) that would be equal to a 20 on the ACT. If you take both tests, you’ll see which test benefits your skill set most.