Skip to main content

Most US colleges accept both SAT and ACT scores, making it clear that there is no added advantage to taking one test over the other. These standardized tests serve as a way for colleges to assess prospective students’ academic abilities. They are often used in combination with other factors such as grades, extracurricular activities, and personal essays to determine admission eligibility.

While both tests measure college readiness, students often wonder which test is easier when deciding which one to take. However, it’s important to note that both tests are designed to be tricky, and the level of comfort for each test depends on the student. Our best advice is to familiarize yourself with the requirements of both tests and take the test you score betteron.

Although the SAT and ACT share a common goal, they have some key differences in structure, content, and scoring. To help students make an informed decision about which test to take, we will compare the digital SAT with the ACT, highlighting the similarities and differences between the two tests.

Section and Content

The digital SAT has the same structure as the paper-based SAT, with 2 main sections  Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. However, the digital SAT does not offer an optional essay section. The ACT has 4 main sections – English, Math, Reading, and Science, with an optional essay section.

From this section breakdown, it is evident that the content for both tests is largely similar except for the inclusion of a science section in the ACT. So, if you’re a science-inclined person, the ACT might appeal to you with its science-specific section. Of course, the SAT also includes some science related passages, however, the emphasis is lower.

The English sections are largely similar for both, however, the SAT places more emphasis on testing challenging vocabulary. When it comes to the essay section, only the ACT has an optional essay section. The ACT essay asks for your personal opinion and you are expected to think of examples to support your claims.

Testing Time

The digital SAT has a total test time of 2 hours and 14 minutes, compared to the ACT‘s 3 hours and 35 minutes (with the optional essay). However, the digital SAT includes an additional 20-minute section that is not scored and is used for research purposes.

However, after taking into account the number of questions, this leaves an average of 71 – 95 seconds for answering each question on the SAT. For the ACT, you’ll have about 36 – 60 seconds per question. So, if you prefer ample time for answering questions, the SAT may be more your speed. Alternatively, if you are someone who works well under pressure, then the ACT might be up your alley.


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

The SAT does not focus on raw scores—i.e. the number of questions each student got correct. Instead, the SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600. The scaled scores allow for consideration of the difficulty of each test, as some tests might be more challenging than others. Hence, the raw scores are scaled to fit a normal distribution curve. The scores of a student reflect how he/she compares with other students who attempted the test. You’ll have one Math score, on a 200-800 scale, and one Reading and Writing score, also on a 200-800 scale.

Neither test penalizes test takers for guessing as there is no negative marking for incorrect answers.

Alternatively, you can take both tests and submit the higher score. Naturally, focusing on one standardized test would be more efficient, but if you have extra time to prepare, go for it! Just don’t feel pressured to do so, because there’s absolutely no need to register and attempt both tests.


Digital SATACT
Test Duration (excluding breaks)2 hours 14 minutes2 hours 55 minutes - without essay
3 hours 35 minutes - with essay
Sections1. Reading & Writing - 54 questions, 64 minutes (2 32-minute modules)
2. Math - 44 questions, 70 minutes (2 35-minute modules)
1. English - 75 questions, 45 minutes
2. Math - 60 questions, 60 minutes
3. Reading - 40 questions, 35 minutes
4. Science - 40 questions, 35 minutes
5. Writing (optional) - 1 essay, 40 minutes
Time per question1. Reading & Writing - 71 seconds
2. Math - 95 seconds
1. English - 36 seconds
2. Math - 1 minute
3. Reading - 52 seconds per question / less than 9 minutes for each reading passage
4. Science - 52 seconds / less than 6 minutes for each science passage
5. Writing - 40 minutes
ScoringThe Reading + Writing and Math sections each use a scale of 200-800 and are combined for a total score (out of 1600).Each section uses a scale of 1-36. Your total score (out of 36) is the average of your four section scores.

Whether It’s The SAT or ACT, We Are Ready To Help

Do you know that besides our comprehensive SAT test prep options, Prep Zone’s trainers are also well equipped to help you with the ACT as well?

At Prep Zone, our trainers keep track of our students’ performance and affinity with either the SAT and ACT, and advise them to switch from one test to another if it would help with their admissions journey.

Thus, if you ever find yourself wondering which test to focus on, you can chat to a consultant to figure out the best action plan! Simply fill in the following form and we will get in touch to schedule a suitable slot.

For any additional inquiries, call our hotline at +65 6812 9999


By submitting this form, I agree to Prep Zone Academy’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.