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ACT vs. SAT - What's the Difference?



The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what students have learned in high school. The ACT includes English, mathematics, reading, science and writing (optional) tests. For specific test descriptions, click here.




The SAT is an aptitude test, measuring your mathematical and verbal abilities. The SAT includes critical reasoning, mathematics and a required writing section. To learn more about the SAT, click here.


Which Should You Take?


Today, most colleges and universities will accept either test. First, students should look into the schools that they are interested in. The school's website should clearly indicate their testing requirements. Additionally, many schools have become test optional, meaning they make their decision based on grades, strength of schedule, letters of recommendation and essays. For a list of test-optional colleges and universities, check out


If a student's potential schools accept either test, students may want to take both, or practice versions of both, in order to determine which they are more comfortable with and, then, re-take the one that they prefer or did better on.


A Quick Comparison



  • Optional writing test
  • Includes advanced math
  • 4 sections: English, mathematics, reading, science
  • Evaluates what a student has learned 


  • Required writing test
  • Emphasizes vocabulary
  • 2 sections: math, verbal; plus a written essay
  • Evaluates thinking and problem-solving skills