ACT vs. SAT: Everything You Need to Know | Edukasyon.ph
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ACT vs. SAT: Everything You Need to Know

If you’re aiming for admission to the undergraduate program of your dreams, you’re more than likely weighing the big exam question: Which do I take—the ACT or SAT? Both tests are acceptable to the majority of U.S.-based colleges and universities, but deciding which one to take can be a challenge for prospective college students.

Let’s delve into the specifics of each exam, how they are similar, and how they’re different. Hopefully, you’ll walk away with an enhanced understanding of what to expect from each test and a better idea of which one is best for you.

ACT vs. SAT: The Basics

Before getting into the finer points of both exams, it’s important to take a look at the macro-level differences and similarities. While there is some crossover in terms of structure and content, the two exams differ greatly in various respects.

Time 2 hours, 55 minutes without Writing

3 hours, 35 minutes with Writing

3 hours without essay

3 hours, 50 minutes with essay

Order of Sections
  1. English
  2. Math
  3. Reading
  4. Science
  5. Writing (optional)
  1. Reading
  2. Writing & Language
  3. Math No Calculator
  4. Math Calculator
  5. Essay (optional)
Time Per Section English: 45 minutes

Math: 60 minutes

Reading: 35 minutes

Science: 35 minutes

Writing (optional): 40 minutes

Reading: 65 minutes

Writing & Language: 35 minutes

Math No Calculator: 25 minutes

Math Calculator: 55 minutes

Essay (optional): 50 minutes

Number of Questions English: 75 questions

Math: 60 questions

Reading: 40 questions

Science: 40 questions

Writing (optional): 1 essay

Reading: 52 questions

Writing & Language: 44 questions

Math No Calculator: 20 questions

Math Calculator: 38 questions

Essay (optional): 1 essay

ACT vs. SAT: Differences & Similarities

Apart from structure and content, below are some further differences and similarities regarding the SAT and ACT. Let’s examine these clearly so that there is no confusion on the specifics of each.

Cost $47.50 without essay

$64.50 with essay

$50.50 without Writing test

$67.00 with Writing test

Accepted By…? All U.S. colleges and universities All U.S. colleges and universities
Science Section No Science Section Science Section
Length 3 hours without essay

3 hours, 50 minutes with essay

2 hours, 55 minutes without Writing

3 hours, 35 minutes with Writing

Essay/Writing Test optional, does not count toward total score optional, does not count toward total score

ACT vs. SAT: Popularity

The popularity of these tests has fluctuated over time. The ACT has historically been taken by more students in the Midwest than the SAT, while the SAT has traditionally been more the more popular of the two on the East and West Coasts. The ACT is currently taken by a larger number of students than the SAT, but this is partially because some states require all of their public high school students to take the ACT. A common myth is that more elite colleges and universities prefer the SAT than the ACT, but college administrators have repeatedly stated they do not favor one over the other.

ACT vs. SAT: Scoring

It’s important to understand the logistics of SAT and ACT scoring, both in terms of a composite score and with respect to the sectional and writing scores. Clearly, both methods of scoring are distinctive and must be remembered to best assess your own testing outcomes. After all, a high score on the ACT could mean something very different on the SAT!

For the SAT, the total scoring range is in 10-point increments from 400-1600, with 1600 being the highest and 400 the lowest. As far as the writing goes, you’re assessed on a scale of 2-8 in one-point increments.

When it comes to the ACT, composite and section scoring ranges from 1-36, so it’s significantly different from the SAT. Additionally, the Writing test is assessed on a scale of 2-12 (all scores are in one-point increments).

Determining your score goals for either exam is an important part of your preparation process. Knowing the average score of students at your intended schools is the first step to properly evaluating your competition. If you need to compare scores, there is an SAT to ACT score conversion page and an ACT to SAT score conversion page that you can consult to get a rough idea of your score concordances.

ACT vs. SAT: Strategy

When we talk about SAT and ACT strategy, it’s important to keep a few factors in mind. Here are some valued tips to help you in your preparation.  

For the SAT:

  • Keep in mind that SAT mistakes typically fall into four categories: content weakness, time pressure, question comprehension issue, and careless error
  • Underline key parts of each question—specifically, what you need to find
  • Memorize grammar rules so you can apply them correctly

For the ACT:

  • Plug in answers and numbers to see which ones work; this allows you to analyze the problem using real numbers instead of unknowns
  • Skim all reading passages, starting with the introduction and conclusion, and then the first and last sentences of each body paragraph
  • Utilize the process of elimination as a primary strategy for tackling difficult, confusing questions

Finding your own effective strategies is an enjoyable process that is sure to bring about successful results! Take your time in doing so and keep track of them by having a “strategy log.” To start practice, you can utilize these SAT practice questions and these ACT practice questions, which are available for free and come with detailed explanations of the solutions!

SAT & ACT Test Centers in the Philippines

There are a variety of testing centers in the Philippines for the SAT and ACT. Below are just a handful, but keep in mind there are many more.

The SAT is administered at the following locations: Australian International School in Metro Manila; Beacon Academy in Laguna; Bren International in Zambales; Brent International School in Baguio City; Cebu International School in Cebu City; and MIT International School in Muntinlupa City.

The ACT is administered at the following locations: St. Carmen Salles School in Bacolod City; Brent School in Baguio City; Philippines Training Center in Cebu City; Saint Jude Catholic School in Manila; Veritas English Teaching and Learning in Muntinlupa City; Forum Institute for International Studies in Pasig City Manila; and the British Council in Taguig City.

More information about registering for test centers can be found at each exam’s prospective website: act.org and collegeboard.org.

ACT vs. SAT: The Takeaway

In the end, you should prepare for the exam that will yield you the best results. Deciding to take a practice SAT and ACT can provide you with a sample score for each test, helping you make an optimal choice. Some college applicants take both; this is for truly ambitious students who want to stretch their testing abilities by shooting for the stars. Taking both the ACT and SAT is a rare opportunity to evaluate your own test-taking abilities across a broad range of topics and skills. Manhattan Review’s free SAT Prep and ACT Prep can help you form your own opinion.

Regardless of your exam preference, the best strategy for either is to practice, practice, practice. Stick to a rigorous course of study and you will see the results you desire!


About Manhattan Review:
Manhattan Review is an international test prep firm that mainly offers preparation for admissions tests needed to apply to US-based universities and schools, including the SAT, GMAT, LSAT, SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, and TOEFL. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Joern Meissner, an internationally renowned business school professor, the company helps students gain entrance to their desired degree programs by working to improve their admission test scores. Headquartered in New York City, Manhattan Review offers SAT Prep in the Philippines and many cities in Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Begumpet, Tarnaka, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Hong Kong. Please also check out our official website for Manhattan Review India.

Learn more about Manhattan Review!