Skip to main content

With a very few exceptions, US universities accept both these tests and treat them the same. In their current formats, the ACT is broader than the SAT, covering more ground with less depth, and will be more in tune with your own education. That said, the SAT is the more common test for international students to take (probably through the broader selection of testing centres). 

How they are similar

There are many similarities between the ACT and the SAT: both tests are standardised around the globe, largely multiple-choice format, offered on Saturday mornings throughout the year, and are about 4 hours long. Also, both accommodate disabilities and can be re-taken multiple times. 

Now that the new SAT is in place, there are additional similarities with the ACT – there is no penalty for wrong answers and the essay component is optional (previously this was only true for the ACT). 

...And how they're different

Even after the new SAT up and running, there will continue to be some key differences between the ACT and the SAT: the topics covered (the ACT adds Science Reasoning), the scoring range and method, and the greater availability of test centres for the SAT.

How to choose?

If you’re trying to decide between the SAT and the ACT, you should try a test for each and see which one of the two you are most comfortable with. Sample tests and practice questions are available on SAT website and ACT website

There is one more consideration that might help you make that decision, but this is dependent on the universities you are considering. 

In most instances, any requirement to sit SAT Subject Tests will apply regardless of whether you have taken the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT. However, because the ACT is more content based than the SAT, some US universities that have Subject Test requirements will fully or partially waive this requirement for students who take the full ACT (including the Writing section). For example, both Yale and Columbia fully waive subject tests if the student takes the ACT; Harvard does not. 

(Caveat about the above: unis change admissions requirements all the time, so this information could change by the time you read it. Check and recheck requirements for the unis you’re interested in). 

by

by

Related articles


  • The typical European university

    The prototypical University of Europe exists as a collection of old, pretty buildings sprinkled through the historic centre of your average, fairy-tale European town, indistinguishable from all the other buildings around them but for a discreet plaque by the door.

  • Exchange students and integration

    Europe is the land of exchange. It seems like every student in the world who wants to take a year or term out to study abroad descends on Europe with high hopes of self-discovery and Broadening of Horizons. Within the continent itself, the ERASMUS program generates thousands of criss-crossing exchangers every semester.

  • Six things you need to know about uni in Europe

    If you want to escape our Island, why look further than across the channel?

  • The Bologna Process explained

    You'll see mention of the Bologna Process cropping up in a number of our European uni write-ups; it matters to you for all kinds of reasons if you want to study in one of the 47 countries that have now signed up to it. Simon Sweeney's explanation of this fairly complicated new educational development is the clearest and most succinct we've seen.

  • Uni in Germany

    Germany’s educational reputation is perhaps the best in the world after the US and UK. The snag is that all international students must pass stringent German language tests to study at most good universities in Germany. This has lead to the bizarre contradiction that the country is among the most popular destinations for exchange students, but one of the least popular for full degree-taking students.


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1,100+ schools.
 Overall school performance by GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark
 

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 GSG Blog >    In the news >

Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Transgender policy now needed in every school


3rd editions of Good Schools Guide - London North and South now available, all entries fully revised with 2016 results. Buy now...