Why Should I Care About Standardized Tests?

Most colleges require prospective students to take a standardized test prior to admission*, and all happily accept either the SAT or ACT.


What are the Differences Between the SAT and the ACT?

While the tests are now quite similar, a few key differences remain:


  • Both tests cover math, reading, and English.  The ACT has a science section; the SAT doesn’t.

  • In the reading section, the SAT has 5 reading passages, the ACT has 4.

  • Both tests now cover the same math concepts, however, the SAT limits the questions for which you can use a calculator. The ACT's math section is slightly more rigorous and allows a calculator for all math questions.

  • SAT questions tend to take more time to answer; ACT questions are more straightforward.

  • Both essay sections are optional. The SAT writing test is 50 minutes long and focuses on comprehension.The ACT is 40 minutes long and requires that you evaluate and analyze complex issues.

  • Without the essay portion, the ACT is slightly shorter (2 hours, 55 minutes) and provides less time per question than the SAT (3 hours).

  • The SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600, the ACT on a scale of 1-36.


How Do I Prepare?

First of all, investigate both tests to see .  Sample tests are available online.  Real time on-site practice tests (many free) are offered by most of the major test prep companies.  Once you’ve decided which test to take, prepare to prepare.  Prepping results in higher scores, so make a plan to study. There are many resources available, including in-person and online courses, one-on-one tutoring, and test prep books.   Some of the best free online resources include:









There are also apps to help you study on the go:


ACT Student



SAT Vocab by Mindsnacks

Daily Practice for the New SAT


What Are the Upcoming Test Dates?

SAT Test Dates

ACT Test Dates



*Click here for a list of test-optional and test-flexible colleges.

All About Testing

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