It’s time to start thinking about the big college admissions test. So which one will it be: the SAT or the ACT? Let us help you figure it out.

What are the differences in the format?
Both the ACT and SAT include four multiple-choice sections presented in the same order every time. The SAT includes reading, writing and language, math with a calculator, and math without a calculator. The ACT includes English, math, reading, and science. Both include an optional essay.

With essay, the SAT lasts 3 hours and 50 minutes, and the ACT takes 3 hours and 35 minutes.

So the timing is about the same?
Kind of. The time you will spend in the room is very similar between the two tests. But the SAT contains a total of 154 questions, giving you about 1 minute 10 seconds per question, while the ACT has 215 questions, for a rate of about 49 seconds per question – and that 20 second gap can make a significant difference in the time stress you feel, especially if you are prone to test anxiety.

How do the scores work?
The SAT combines the reading section with the writing and language section to create one verbal score (technically called the “evidence-based reading and writing” score) and adds up the math sections to get an overall math score. Each score runs from 200 to 800, for a total between 400 and 1600.

Then median score among SAT test-takers in 2017 was 1055; to score better than 80 percent of your peers, you’d have needed a 1230. (Way more details available from the College Board.)

The ACT gives you a score between 1 and 36 on each section, then averages the four numbers to get your composite score. From 2015 to 2107, the median ACT score was roughly 20; a 26 would outscore 82 percent of test-takers. (Check out the ACT numbers.)

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