SAT vs ACT in Infographics

With all the articles out there giving you SAT vs ACT comparisons, I bet you’d like to see something a little more visually appealing like an infographic? 


Well lucky for you, we re-vamped our SAT vs ACT infographic from 2016. 😉 

We’re also going to break it down piece by piece with more deets!


Guessing Penalty

In the past, 1/4 point would be deducted for every wrong answer on the SAT so you would have been advised to skip the questions you didn’t know.

That’s no longer the case! Now, on both the SAT and ACT, there are ZERO points penalized for wrong answers.

The SAT also gives you 10 more minutes than the ACT with essay. That time, on either test, is precious. So even though you won’t be penalized for guessing, you should be strategic about how you guess.

Length of Test

There is not much difference in ACT or SAT when it comes to the length of the test even though ACT has a Science section. As presented in the infographics, the SAT is taken in 3 hours (without the essay) and 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay). Meanwhile, the ACT is taken in 2 hours, 55 minutes (without the essay), and 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay).

Test Structure

The third thing we will focus on this review of SAT vs ACT is the test structure. The SAT offers three required tests. This includes Reading, Writing & Language, and Math. Meanwhile, the ACT has four required tests: English, Math, Reading, and Science & Reasoning. Having Science as a test section is perhaps the greatest difference between the two tests.

Optional Essays

Both the ACT or SAT now have optional essays. Whether or not you should take the essay is up to, however, more opportunities will open up to you when you take it. You should also ask the school/s you are applying to if they require the essay test score. If that is the case, you have no choice but to take the essay test.

The SAT Essay Score Range

The SAT essay is actually broken up into 3 different dimensions, or sections, with a possibility of 1-4 points each time:

  1. Reading = 1-4
  2. Analysis = 1-4
  3. Writing = 1-4

1-4 is NOT the total amount of points possible per dimension. It is the total amount of points possible PER scorer.

You can receive 2-8 points per dimension.

Test Scoring Range

Another notable difference between SAT vs ACT is the scoring scale. For the SAT, the 2016 revised scoring scale is from 400 to 1600. On the other hand, the ACT’s scoring range is 1 to 36.

Cost of the Test

The difference between SAT vs ACT when it comes to registration fee is also not that significant. The SAT costs $49.50 without the essay and $64.50 with essay while the ACT costs $52 without the essay and $68 with an essay.


Reading Section

Both tests have a reading section so if you are wondering which to take, ACT or SAT, the answer is either of the two because they are almost the same. The SAT has five passages while the ACT has four passages.

Math Difficulty

SAT Math includes: 

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I & II
  • Geometry, Trigonometry, & Data Analysis

ACT Math includes: 

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I & II
  • Geometry, Trigonometry, & Probability and Statistics

Important note: The SAT’s math section is split into 2 portions:

  1. With Calculator
  2. Without Calculator

Never fear. The “without calculator” portion of the test is not meant to trick you. These are problems that ARE possible to be solved without using a calculator.

The ACT, on the other hand, allows a calculator on all of its math.

Science Section

If you are not good at Science and wondering which to take: ACT or SAT, well, the SAT is for you! SAT does not have a Science Section while the ACT has. It is more focused on critical thinking skills.


We hope this infographic comparing the SAT vs ACT will help you in understanding the two exams! If you want more advice about which is right for you, just ask!

And as a general rule, it doesn’t hurt to take both ACT or SAT and see if you are stronger in one or the other.

More information and resources for the SAT:

Blogs by Student-tutor:

More information and resources for the ACT:

Blogs by Student-tutor:

Did we answer all your questions about the differences between the SAT vs ACT? Let us know in the comments below!

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!
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8 years ago

I believe the listed time for SAT is wrong, should be 3 hrs, 50′.

Laura Petersen
Laura Petersen
8 years ago
Reply to  dberlove

Thanks for the comment! …but we do have that listed as the time. Would you let me know where exactly to look? Maybe I am missing it! 🙂 Laura