The Ultimate Guide to SAT and
ACT Test Prep

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SAT vs ACT: Which Should Your Student Take?

The SAT and ACT are standardized tests that are commonly used as part of the college admissions process. Students take these tests to demonstrate their readiness for college and to provide a standardized measure of their academic abilities to colleges and universities.

Choosing which standardized test to take, the ACT or SAT (or both), can be a difficult task. Let's dive into the differences between the SAT and the ACT and how our comprehensive test prep program and tutoring experts can help students prepare and excel at the SAT and ACT.

Overview of the SAT and ACT

SAT Exam

The SAT stands for "Scholastic Assessment Test" and is meant to measure analytical skills, reading comprehension, writing ability, and mathematical knowledge. While many colleges in 2023 make the SAT test optional in the admissions process, it is still highly recommended that you take the SAT or ACT if you are planning to attend a four-year university or pursue a scholarship or specialized program.

ACT Exam

ACT stands for "American College Testing." It is a standardized college admission test that measures a student's knowledge and skills in English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. The test is designed to assess a student's readiness for college-level coursework and is widely accepted by colleges and universities in the US.

SAT vs. ACT Format and Timing




The format of the SAT test is currently on paper. Starting in spring 2024, all students will take the full SAT Suite of Assessments digitally.

The first four sections of the ACT are multiple-choice. The test is administered on a computer at a designated testing center.


Test-takers are allowed 3 hours and 50 minutes to complete the SAT exam, plus an extra 50 minutes for an optional essay. The format of the test includes 5 sections: Reading, Writing, Math (with a calculator), Math (without a calculator), and an optional essay. The timing breakdown is as such:

Reading: 65-minute section with 52 questions
Writing and Language: 35-minute section with 44 questions
Math – No Calculator: 25-minute section with 20 questions
Math – Calculator: 55-minute section with 38 questions
Essay (optional): 50 minutes, one essay

The ACT is composed of multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete (3 hours and 35 minutes with the optional Writing Test). The timing breakdown is as such:

English: 45 minutes with 75 questions
Math: 60 minutes with 60 questions
Reading: 35 minutes with 40 questions
Science: 35 minutes with 40 questions
Writing (optional): 40 minutes, one essay


The SAT includes scheduled breaks which do not count toward the total test time of 180 minutes. There is a 10-minute break and a 5-minute break, plus a 2-minute break if you are taking the essay portion.

During the test, students will only have one 10-minute break after the ACT math section. If the student opts to take the writing portion, they will get a 5-minute break after the ACT Science section.

How Do SAT Scores Compare to ACT Scores?

While most schools will recommend students take either the ACT or the SAT, taking both tests may be recommended when trying to decide between several colleges with different admissions requirements.

The SAT composite score is out of 1600 points while the ACT composite score is out of 36 points. To determine an SAT equivalent to your ACT score, you can use the following chart for a rough estimation:

SAT/ACT Score Equivalence Chart

























Where and When to Take the SAT or ACT

Where to take the SAT?

High school students may take SAT tests at designated testing centers. Testing centers are usually located at high schools, colleges, and universities. You may use the College Board’s Test Center Search database to find a testing center near you.

When to take the SAT?

Dates to take the SAT are scheduled throughout the year and held at different schools and locations across the country. Visit the College Board to learn more.

Where to take the ACT?

The ACT is administered at local schools, colleges, and universities. It may be administered at other designated testing centers as well. Visit to learn more.

When to take the ACT?

ACT test dates are held on one date in each of the months of September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.

SAT and ACT Fees

Is there a fee for taking the SAT?

As of 2023, the fee for taking the SAT is $60. There are additional fees to consider if you sign up late or need to reschedule your test. Fee waivers are available to low-income eligible students.

Is there a fee for taking the ACT?

The fee to take the ACT without the optional essay portion is $63. To take the full ACT with the writing portion is $88. There is a $25 fee for rescheduling the exam and a $36 late registration fee.

How do I submit test scores to schools?

How do I submit test scores to schools?

Both the ACT and SAT allow you to send your score to up to four colleges of your choice. With the ACT, you must select these institutions at the time of test registration. To send additional scores is $18 per score.

Which Test is Right for You

Test-takers may find that deciding which test to take, the SAT or the ACT, can be challenging. Both standardized tests are accepted widely by colleges. However, the format and content of each test are unique, so it’s important to consider which test aligns better with the student’s academic strengths and goals.

One way to determine which test to take is by taking practice tests. The student may take one or both the ACT and the SAT and compare their scores. These preliminary results may provide some guidance on where to focus study efforts with a private tutor.

At Groza, our standardized testing experts can help assess which test aligns better with the student’s strengths and preferences. Our educational specialists can also help identify which test is preferred by the colleges the student wants to apply to. Contact us today to learn more and get started on your path to success.

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