Many students wonder whether they should take the SAT vs ACT test, but there are several factors students should consider when making the decision. Students first need to decide what subjects they are strong in and what subjects they are weak in, and secondly, students should figure out what colleges they are applying to.

Difference Between SAT and ACT

SAT vs. ACT, the main difference between the two tests is that the ACT has a Science section. ACT English is similar to SAT Writing (not including the essay); ACT Mathematics is similar to SAT Math; ACT Reading is similar to SAT Critical Reading, and ACT Writing is similar to the SAT essay.

A Strength in English and Writing

If your strength is English and writing, then you might want to consider taking the ACT test. The ACT English section is comprised of questions based on passages that you either have to correct or improve. The SAT Writing section is similar, but on the SAT test, there are also improving sentences and identifying sentence errors. In other words, if your strength is in English and writing, the ACT could provide a better vehicle for showcasing your talents.

A Strength in Math and Science

If your strength is in Math or Science, or rather, if English and Writing is your weakness, consider taking the SAT test. The math on both tests is about the same, but the SAT Writing section has fewer passages to correct or improve. Both sections have Reading sections, but the SAT has a mix of long and short passages.

ACT Test Registration

The ACT test is usually offered about six times a year and the registration deadline for each test date is typically about one month before. You can register for the ACT test online, by mail, or by phone. The easiest and fastest way to register is online.

To register for the ACT test online, you will need a Visa or Mastercard.

Those who fall into the following categories need to register for the ACT test via mail:

  • Do not have a Visa or Mastercard
  • Need to change test date or test center
  • Testing outside the United States
  • Need disability accommodations
  • Using a few waivers
  • Enrolled in grades 6, 7, 8, or 9

For those retaking the ACT test, you can register for the ACT test by phone. The ACT test registration number is (319) 337-1270. You can call any time Monday through Friday 8:00 am to 8:00 pm central time.

ACT Test Registration Fee

The basic registration fee for the ACT test is $29. It costs $14 extra if you want to take the option Writing test. There are also additional fees for the test date change, late registration, non-domestic testing, standby testing, and early score viewing. For more information on ACT test registration fees, visit the official ACT website.

ACT Test Format

ACT Time Breakdown

The ACT is comprised of four tests and one optional test, which adds up to three hours and twenty-five minutes plus breaks. The English test is 45 minutes, Math is 60 minutes, Reading is 35, Science is 35, and the optional Writing test is 30 minutes.

ACT English Format

The ACT English test consists of five passages each followed by questions. English questions test students’ skills in punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, strategy, organization, and style.

ACT Mathematics Format

Similar to the SAT Math section, ACT Mathematics tests students on arithmetic, geometry, and algebra.

ACT Reading Format

Students are given four passages that are of the same level of college freshman courses. Students’ skills in reading comprehension are tested.

ACT Science Format

The ACT Science test measures the skills required in the natural sciences and assumes that students are in the process of taking core high school science classes.

ACT Writing (Optional) Format

Students are given a prompt that they have to write an essay on that either agrees or disagrees. ACT Writing score is not based on the stance taken; scores are based on how well a student develops ideas.

Registering for the SAT Test

You can register for the SAT test online or by mail.

Registering for SAT Online

Registering for the SAT online is the quickest and most convenient method of registration. To register online, go to the SAT official website registration page and fill out the form accordingly. Have a credit card ready, because you’ll need one to pay for SAT registration fees.

Registering for SAT by Mail

To register by mail, you need a Registration Bulletin which you can get from your school counselor’s office. The required form and return envelope are in the Registration Bulletin.

Standby Registration

If you miss the SAT registration deadline, you might still be able to take the test. To be considered for standby testing, go to the test center on the day of the test at 7:45. Bring the envelope from the Registration Bulletin with your $35 standby fee in addition to the regular test fee. If there’s room, then you’ll be allowed to take the test that day, but there are no guarantees.

Fee Waiver

If you are unable to pay SAT registration fees, you might be able to get your fees waived. Check with your school counselor, who can provide you with the forms you need to apply for a fee waiver.

SAT Writing Section Format

There are three SAT writing sections–one is the Essay and two are multiple choice.

SAT Essay Section

For the SAT Essay section, you will have 25 minutes to write about a given topic. The Essay section doesn’t require you to have a vast knowledge on any specific subject; rather it tests you on your grasp of English language conventions and your ability to develop a point of view supported by evidence based on reading, experience, and studies.

Here’s an example from the official SAT website:

You can see the prompt is a very general topic that all students can write about.

SAT Writing Multiple Choice

In addition to the Essay, SAT Writing has two multiple choice sections with identifying sentence errors, improving sentences, and improving paragraphs. For identifying sentence errors, you will be given a sentence and have to decide if there are any mistakes that deviate from standard English. There are five answer choices where four are possible mistakes, and one is for no mistakes.

For improving sentences and paragraphs, you’ll be given a sentence or paragraph and answer choices that propose different wordings or sentence order that would make the sentence or paragraph more readable.

Check out the StudyBeans SAT Study Guide for tips on improving your SAT Writing score.