Comparison of the ACT and the SAT:
- Curriculum based questions
- Straight forward questions
- Four long sections, plus optional essay
- No experimental section
- Four Trigonometry questions
- Science section
- Less time per question
- No penalty for incorrect answer
- Total time with writing: 3 hours and 35 minutes
SAT (taken March, 2016 and later)
- "Evidence-Based" Reading and Writing questions, including data interpretation questions
- Strong emphasis on Algebra and data interpretation and analysis
- One Trig question
- Questions that focus on audience, purpose, and effective communication of ideas rather than on grammar rules.
- No penalty for incorrect answer
- Four required sections: Reading, Writing, Math, and Science
- Optional 50-minute essay section, to analyze how an author of a passage builds a persuasive argument
- Total time with essay: 3 hours, 50 minutes
Need help comparing scores?
- Concordance Charts, comparison tools to compare your scores on the SAT versus the ACT.
Free and Self-paced Preparation:
- Khan Academy - now partnering with CollegeBoard with free SAT preparation.
- Number2.com - Free online test prep including immediate feedback on every incorrect answer, question of the day, and word of the day for both SAT and ACT.
SAT specific practice:
- Khan Academy - (Self-paced practice and free full length practice test)
- Official SAT Question of the Day (receive via email or cell phone)
- SAT and SAT Subjects - practice questions
- SAT - free full practice test from Collegeboard
- Get ready for the SAT Subject Tests
- Subject Test Practice Questions
ACT specific practice:
- Official ACT Question of the Day (receive via email or cell phone)
- ACT Test questions - practice
- ACT - free full practice test from The Princeton Review
Fee-based and Structured Preparation:
- AJ Tutoring - provides tutoring for SAT Reasoning, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP Exams.
- Compass Test Prep - provides 1 to 1 test prep tutoring.
- The Princeton Review - Provides 6 or 8 week structured classes or individual tutoring for SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and/or ACT
- Kaplan - Provides 6 or 8 week structured classes or individual tutoring for SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and/or ACT
There is no "best" way to prepare, and fees can range roughly from $150 to $900 and up. The method you choose, whether on an individual tutoring basis or in a group class, should meet your student's needs best. Questions to help you evaluate test prep options:
- What is the average score improvement?
- What are the qualifications of the teachers? How much experience do they have coaching the SAT and/or ACT? How are they trained?
- Does the course combine math, reading, and writing review? Or would a tutor to review your weakest subject work better for you?
- What is the class size? Have they been kept small to permit individual assistance?
- Is extra or additional assistance available? Is there a charge for this?
- Does the course offer practice tests and diagnostic feedback?
- Are timed practice tests used throughout the course? How many?
- How much weekly homework should my student plan for?
- Will the course schedule and student's schedule be compatible? Will the studnet have time to attend class? Do the homework?
- How many hours of teaching/tutoring does the option include?
- What is the fee?
SAT Subject Tests:
- CSUs do not consider these.
- UC Admissions and SAT Subject Tests: while no longer "required", certain UC campuses/majors "recommend" students take certain SAT Subject Tests.
- Private and out-of-state campuses and majors vary in their policies on SAT Subject Tests, so be sure to check individual campus websites for their requirements. Only a small minority require or consider these.
Testing results not aligned to your abilities?
- Check out Fairtest for a list of colleges that do not use SAT or ACT scores for admitting substantial numbers of students into bachelor degree programs. There are approximately 900+ campuses which utilize admission processes of either test-free or test-optional.