Quick Guide to SAT and ACT for applicants

It doesn’t matter what country you live in now. All students who want to get into an American college have to pass the ACT or SAT. And the results of these exams affect not only the decision to enroll, but also the chances of getting a scholarship on merit, for example, for success in sports.

Many colleges do not see a difference between these tests, and candidates have the opportunity to pass both tests and choose one of them. According to statistics, in 2019, the SAT was chosen by about 2.2 million candidates, and the ACT was preferred by 1.8 million people. Both exams are designed to determine if a student is ready for college, but they solve this problem with the help of different scoring systems. Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know.


Yes, sat and ACT have a lot in common, but there are still some differences between them. Since the levels of difficulty of the tests are approximately identical, to assess your own abilities, you can pass full-size trial tests on the official website. This will allow you to understand how grades are distributed across percentiles, and how well you handle the time limit. Testing your knowledge and finding the tasks that cause the greatest difficulties will increase the quality of your training and the chances of getting a good grade.

  • If you discard the section with the essay, the SAT usually lasts 3 hours, and the ACT – 2 hours and 55 minutes.
  • When taking up the SAT, get ready to answer 154 questions (act has 215).
  • Both on the SAT and on the ACT, essay writing can be abandoned. But, despite the fact that in most colleges grades for them are not required, it is better to work on them. Additional information may play into your hands upon admission.
  • On the SAT, the essay is based on the source text, and the questions test how well you’ve grasped it. Act also offers challenging tasks that test your ability to evaluate and analyze data.
  • The Reading SAT section consists of five parts, and act has only four.
  • The SAT does not affect knowledge in the field of natural sciences, but in the ACT a whole section is devoted to them. It is designed to test your critical thinking abilities, not your level of mastery of specific topics. When going to take the SAT, be prepared to answer the quasi-scientific questions scattered throughout the test.
  • Both exams include Math stages relating to arithmetic, algebra, trigonometry, and geometry. However, if the SAT evaluates data analysis skills, then in ACT there are tasks for probability and statistics.
  • For sat you can score from 400 to 1600 points, and for ACT – from 1 to 36.
  • The cost of passing the tests is almost the same. You need to pay $ 49.5 for the SAT (with an optional essay – 64.5). Admission to the ACT costs $ 52 (including the essay – 68).

The SAT is broken down into time-limited sections: Reading takes 65 minutes, Writing & Language takes 35 minutes, and Math takes 80 minutes. In turn, ACT consists of a 35-minute Reading section, the same natural science test and a 45-minute language stage. To work with mathematical problems here is given 65 minutes.

SAT or ACT – what to choose for an international student

The results of the ACT or SAT are a critical element of the applicant’s profile, and foreign students need to choose testing, focusing on the level of their own training. Some colleges require additional subject tests, but sometimes the ACT certificate helps to eliminate this need. Exams in subjects include 21 disciplines to choose from, including 4 basic courses and 9 languages.

Core subjects include English literature, history, mathematics and science. If you live outside of English-speaking countries and want to get into economic programs, then you will most likely have to pass a language test (TOEFL / IELTS).


The most popular in the world is the SAT. If you plan to take the test at home, then you will probably have more options in choosing testing centers and available dates. But on the other hand, ACT is known to be less demanding from a linguistic point of view. If English is not your first language, then act, which places greater emphasis on mathematics and critical thinking, will probably allow you to demonstrate yourself from a more advantageous side.

The test can be taken several times

By sending documents to the selected college, you have the opportunity to specify only those results that will give you the maximum chance of enrollment. This system is called SAT Score Choice. But some establishments would like to see results in all your attempts. To increase your likelihood of success, look at the average score of the school you’re enrolling in.

Calculating the 75th percentile on sat results among successful candidates will give you an idea of the desired result. Many colleges publish averages for the SAT or ACT of enrolled students, so obtaining such information should not be difficult. Since you have the opportunity to specify different results, do not forget that schools often accept a “SuperScore” – the maximum combined result obtained by adding the highest scores for each of the sections.

Getting a good grade for the ACT or SAT takes time and careful planning. You should take up the preparation long before the start of the opening season and try to achieve impressive results in order to significantly increase your chances of getting an enviable place!

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