SAT or ACT: Which is Easier?

SAT or ACT: Which is Easier?

December 06, 2023

Many aspirants begin their college application process by stating their ACT and SAT Exam performance. It is believed the admission committees use the Standard Admission Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT) to measure students' readiness and abilities for college admission and merit-based scholarships.

But the question is, "What is the difference between the SAT and ACT? Which one is easier for both? Which exam should you take? Do colleges prefer the ACT or SAT Exam in India?

In this article, we'll discuss the various topics covered in each exam and help you determine which is easier, the SAT or ACT. The article will help you identify the difference between the ACT and SAT and decide which suits you when applying to any preferred college.

Table of Contents:

  • Understanding the Basics: SAT vs. ACT
  • Differences Between the ACT and SAT
  • How do you choose between the SAT and ACT?
  • Final Thoughts

Understanding the basics: SAT vs. ACT

Before delving deep into the debate of which test is easier to go for, it's important to comprehend each exam's fundamental structure and content.


What is the SAT exam in India?

The SAT comprises two main sections – Reading and Writing, and Math. Both the sections are scored on a scale of 200-800. The Math section, also scored on a scale of 200-800, assesses algebra, problem-solving and data analysis. In Reading and Writing section, a passage ranges from  25 to 150 words representing the subject areas of literature, history/social studies, the humanities and science. Students will have 64 minutes to complete the Reading and Writing Section and 70 minutes to complete the Math section for a total of 2 hours and 14 minutes.


What is the ACT exam in India?

The ACT consists of four main sections – English, Math, Reading, and Science – and an optional Writing (Essay) section. Each one is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The composite ACT exam prep score is the average of the four section scores, rounded to the nearest whole number.

The English section evaluates grammar and language usage; the Math section assesses mathematical reasoning; the Reading section gauges comprehension skills; and the Science section tests the interpretation and analysis of scientific information.


Differences between the ACT and SAT:

Instead of being similar to standardized tests, there are multiple differences between the ACT and SAT when assessing your ability and readiness for post-secondary education. While the SAT is a psychological test that evaluates learning aptitude, the ACT is more of a placement test used to indicate academic achievement and preparation.

Let's look at the differences according to various sections of tests.

Vocabulary –

The SAT assesses vocabulary and reading comprehension, focuses on complex words, and offers a Sentence Completion Section. Conversely, the ACT doesn't have a dedicated vocabulary section but tests word knowledge through contextual understanding. The ACT may be a suitable choice if you prefer less emphasis on vocabulary.

Math –

The SAT Math Section comprises two modules with multiple choice and student produced response questions that measure your fluency with understanding of and ability to apply the math concept, skills and practices that are most important. It covers Algebra, Problem Solving, Data Analysis, Advanced Math, and Geometry and Trignometry. On the contrary, the ACT Math section is a single 60-minute section with 60 questions, focusing on Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Geometry, Statistics, Probability, and Integrating Essential Skills.
Reading –

Effective reading strategies for the ACT and SAT involve understanding the question structures. ACT requires skimming entire passages, while SAT provides line numbers from pinpointing answers. For ACT, inference questions like, "What would Abshu and the Masons agree on raising a Child?" This may require finding specific parts in the passage. On the contrary, the SAT tip is to read questions first and then refer back to the passage using the provided line numbers.

Writing –

It is important to comprehend the distinct difficulties that each essay offers to compare the SAT and ACT essays' relative complexity. The 40-minute ACT essay evaluates pre-writing, writing, and reading comprehension. It entails assessing opposing opinions, outlining your own, and describing how different points of view relate to one another.

The SAT essay demands a response to questions based on four content domains - Craft and Structure, Information and ideas, Standard English Convention and Expression of Ideas.
Timing –




Total Duration of Examination:

2 Hours and 14 Minutes

3 Hours

Test Covers:

Reading & Writing: 64 Minutes (32+32) for 54 Questions

English: 45 minutes for 75 Questions


Math: 70 Minutes (35+35) for 44 Questions

Math: 60 minutes for 60 Questions



Reading: 35 minutes for 40 Questions



Science: 30 minutes for 45 Questions



Writing Component: 40 minutes for 1 Question


How do you choose between the SAT exam and the ACT exam?

After reading this article, you know how each test differs in time, question types, and structure. It all depends on how well you can answer questions and their scoring rubrics: ACT does not penalize guessing and has optional writing sections, while SAT penalizes guessing and requires writing sections.


Final Thoughts –

The SAT or ACT should be chosen based on how comfortable you are with the subject. The ACT might better fit readers who love science and are time-efficient, whereas the SAT might be more appropriate for math aficionados who prefer more time. The choice is yours, as universities often don't favour one test over another. Take practice exams to determine which of the two you performed better on. Whatever you decide, a great score depends on thorough research!


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