Myth: The ACT is Easier than the SAT

If you’re a high school student planning on going to college, you know you need to take either the ACT or SAT. Most colleges accept either the ACT or SAT, so that’s good. But you may be wondering “Is the ACT easier than the SAT?” It’s actually a common misconception that the ACT test is easier than the SAT test. In fact, the answer isn’t cut and dry. Here’s what you need to know about the standardized tests.

A notebook, pencils, paperclips and protractors scattered on a desk.

Is the ACT Test Easier Than the SAT?

When it comes to the difficulty between the ACT and SAT, it depends entirely on you and your strengths. The tests are very similar but also slightly different. You will want to read over each test carefully to see the differences.

It’s also a good idea to consider taking a practice test of each and see which you perform better on your first go around. This will also give you a picture of your weaknesses and what you’ll have to study in the coming weeks.

Consider Your Education and Strengths in Math

One of the major differences between the ACT and SAT is the math sections. While similar, they also test on different areas within the subject. The ACT, for example, tests on matrices, geometry, and trigonometry more often than the SAT. Meanwhile, the SAT will test more on algebra related questions.

The SAT also provides you with formulas at the beginning of the math sections, but does not allow you to have a calculator for specific parts of the test. On the other hand, the ACT doesn’t give you the formulas. This will require you to memorize them, but you’ll be allowed to have a calculator on hand for any math section of the ACT. You’ll have to think carefully about where you excel in math.

…And in Science

The ACT has a science section while the SAT doesn’t. It actually tests on scientific language, rather than specific science subjects, but this requires knowledge of charts and graphs. Understanding scientific terms can also be super helpful to your overall score.

And Consider the Other Differences

There are many other differences between the SAT and the ACT. English on the SAT focuses on writing style, while the ACT may ask more questions about the grammar and sentence structure. There may also be differences between the writing and reading portions of the exams, so you’ll want to do research into each test. To make it easier, this chart will help you with a side by side comparison of the ACT vs. the SAT.

Why Take It?Increase your chances for getting into the college and scholarships of your choice.Increase your chances for getting into the college and scholarships of your choice.
Scoring1-36 Scale400-1600 Scale
Test Length2 Hours, 55 Minutes (No Essay)
3 Hours, 40 Minutes (With Essay)
3 Hours
Test Structure Multiple Choice Questions In areas of:
Mostly multiple choice with 3 Sections:
Writing and Language
Reading4 Passages5 Passages
Science1 section focused critical thinking skills/data interpretationNone
Algebra I & II
Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis
Algebra I & II
Geometry, Trigonometry, and Probability & Statistics
Calculator PolicyCalculator allowed on all questionsCalculator usage is limited to specific questions.
EssaysOptional EssageNone

So when “Is the ACT easier than the SAT?” is asked, there is really no true answer. It is entirely dependent on your own skills in math, science, reading, and writing. The best way to determine which is the best exam for you is to take practice exams in each and see which you score better in. This will help you identify both your strengths and weaknesses and help you decide which test you should focus on.

Check out how your ACT or SAT scores affect your acceptance odds with College Raptor!

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