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SAT, ACT, and TSI Information

The SAT and ACT are entrance exams required by colleges and universities for admission. It is recommended to take the college entrance exams during the spring of your junior year so there is time during the summer and fall of your senior year to retake if necessary before your college admissions deadline. 

All colleges and universities in Texas accept either exam. The majority of schools require a minimum score on the ACT or SAT to be admitted. To find out the minimum score requirements for the school you are interested in, check with the school's website, their admissions office or stop by Mrs. Jungmann's office. 

What are the differences between the SAT and ACT?

The SAT and the ACT test almost identical material – with a few key exceptions.

Both tests have optional essays. Both tests have math sections. Both tests have reading comprehension sections. Both tests have “grammar” sections. And, for the most part, the material tested by these sections is practically identical. Thanks to the changes to the SAT, there are now almost ZERO material differences between these exams. The New SAT math section has toned down its logical reasoning elements and added a few more of the advanced math concepts covered by the ACT (trigonometry, matrices, etc.), and the grammar knowledge required is practically identical. Here are a few differences in order to help you make an informed decision.

1. The ACT tests slightly more complex, more advanced math.

  • Both exams test almost identical mathematical material. You need a strong grasp on arithmetic, algebra, and geometry to thrive. The New SAT has added some of the advanced concepts formerly reserved only for the ACT, but the ACT still tests greater DEPTH of these concepts. Roughly 9 out of the 60 problems on the ACT math section have to do with “advanced” mathematical concepts, including trigonometry, imaginary numbers, advanced geometric shapes, and logarithms, that are tested less superficially on this exam than they are on the SAT. On the New SAT, you basically just need to know what SohCahToa is, whereas on the ACT, you really need to know how to use that concept in a variety of situations.

2. The SAT and ACT require identical grammatical and writing skills for the English / Writing+Language sections, and for the essays.

  • Not a single fact or concept is different on one test than on the other. If you learn all the material required for the SAT, you won’t need to learn a SINGLE new thing in order to get a perfect ACT score (and vice versa). It’s all a matter of strategy.

3. The essays you have to write are different. Not easier or harder, but different.

  • Both tests have optional essays that don’t affect your overall score (they give you a separate grade for the essays that colleges accept, but don't normally take into the consideration decision). The ACT gives you a set of arguments and asks you to pick the best one of the three options, with a bit of reasoning for why you think it’s best. The New SAT gives you a fully-written essay and then asks you to evaluate that essay and find the evidence, the reasoning elements, and the structure. Neither one is easier or harder, but they require different strategies – so the material differences between these essays is non-existent. 

4. Scores on the ACT are reported in the form of sub scale scores for each section and the composite score that ranges from 1-36. Currently the national average composite score on the ACT is 21. The lowest you can score on the SAT is 400 and the highest is 1600. The average score is 1000 with the average score of 500 per section. 

If the material is so similar, then what IS the difference between the tests?

Just because they test similar material does not mean that they’re similar exams. The difference between these two tests comes down to one key concept:

The ACT is insanely more fast-paced and “time-intensive” than the SAT!

ACT Time Per Problem

English: 75 problems in 45 minutes.
36 seconds per English problem
Math: 60 problems in 60 minutes.
60 seconds per math problem.
Reading: 40 problems in 35 minutes.
52.5 seconds per reading problem.

SAT Time Per Problem

Writing+Language: 44 problems in 35 minutes.
48 seconds per Writing+Language problem.
Reading: 52 problems in 65 minutes.
75 seconds per reading problem
Math: 58 problems in 80 minutes.
83 seconds per math problem.

If you’re capable of maintaining your focus and working quickly, then you might be a big fan of the ACT (and you will have a HUGE edge on the competition). If you get stressed out easily, or don’t work well under time pressure, or need more time to think, the ACT might be your worst nightmare.

Time management is important on the SAT – it is EVERYTHING on the ACT! 

Learning the material for one exam will help you perform well on the other.

ACT vs SAT: How Do I Choose?

The best way to decide which test is right for you is to take a timed full-length practice test in each. Since the content and style of the SAT and ACT are very similar, factors like how you handle time pressure and what types of questions you find most challenging can help you determine which test is a better fit. For example, the pace of the SAT gives you a tad more time to think through problems, while the ACT can be more of a time crunch. Some students really thrive under the pressure of the clock, while others prefer the extra time to ponder a question.

Click here to compare the new SAT to the ACT

Still need help deciding ACT or SAT? Click here to try a free practice test for each and see how you score!

SAT - visit to register for the SAT through collegboard.

ACT - visit to register for the ACT. 

A link to the registration dates and deadlines for the SAT and ACT are located on the main welcome page. 


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