ACT Insider Tips SAT

Differences between the new SAT and ACT

We’ve heard from many of our subscribers who are searching for a clear summary of the differences between the new SAT and ACT.  Good news!  We’ve conferred with our stellar SAT and ACT tutors and prepared the following chart.

Comparing the New SAT to the New ACT

When Did It Change? March 2016 September 2015
Testing time 3 hours
+ 50-minute essay (optional –though we suggest it!)
2 hours 55 minutes
+ 40-minute essay (optional –though we suggest it!))
Registration Offered 7 times a year, register 4 weeks before test day, late registration closes 11 days before test day Offered 6 times a year, register 5 weeks before test day, late registration closes 20 days before test day
Structure 3 tests + optional essay 4 tests + optional writing test
# of Questions 154 215
Time per Question 1 minute, 10 seconds 49 seconds
Score Range Composite 400–1600
SAT Essay: reported in 3 dimensions, 2–8.
· No longer one score between 2-12. Instead: Three scores for reading, analysis, and writing, between 2-8.
Composite 1–36
(section scores from 1-36 are averaged to create a composite between 1-36.)Writing domain scores: Now on a scale of 1–36 rather than 2-12 as before.
Additional Score Information College Board will provide several subscores and cross-test scores, including:

· Analysis in History/Social Studies
· Analysis in Science
· Command of Evidence
· Words in Context
· Expression of Ideas
· Standard English Conventions
· Heart of Algebra
· Problem Solving and Data Analysis
· Passport to Advanced Math

Similar to the new SAT essay, the ACT Writing section will have several subscores (scoring between 1-12), including:

· Ideas and Analysis
· Development and Support
· Organization
· Language Use and Conventions

Test Length and Timing Reading Test
65 minutes; 52 questions
Writing and Language Test
35 minutes; 44 questions
Math Test
80 minutes; 58 questions
(20 questions in 25 min. with no calculator and 38 questions in 55 min. with calculator)
Optional Essay
1 prompt; 15 minutes
Reading Test
35 minutes; 40 questions
English Test
45 minutes; 75 questions
Math Test
60 minutes; 60 questions
Science Test
35 minutes; 40 questions
Optional Essay
1 prompt; 40 minutes
Breaking Down the Sections Reading:
· 65 min, 5 passages, 52 questions
· Types: 1 U.S. or World Literature, 2 History or Social Studies, 2 Science.
· Question categories: Main Idea, Vocab-in-Context, Inference, Evidence Support, Data Reasoning, Technique, Detail-Oriented
35 min, 4 passages, 44 questions.
Standard English Conventions: 20 questions (45%), covering sentence structure, conventions of usage, and conventions of punctuation. Expression of Ideas: 24 questions (55%), covering development, organization and effective language use
80 min, 58 questions (20 questions in 25 min. with no calculator and 38 questions in 55 min. with calculator)
Heart of Algebra — 33%
Problem Solving and Data Analysis — 28%
Passport to Advanced Math — 29%
Additional Topics in Math — 10%
50 min. scored on writing, reading and analysis
· 35 minutes, 4 passages, 40 questions
· Types:1 Prose Fiction or Literary Narrative, 1 Social Sciences, 1 Humanities, 1 Natural Sciences
· Question categories: Main Idea, Vocab-in-Context, Inference, Detail-Oriented
45 min, 5 passages, 75 questions.
Usage and Mechanics: sentence structure (20-25%), grammar and usage (15-20%), and punctuation (10-15%)
Rhetorical Skills: style (15-20%), strategy (15-20%), and organization (10-15%)
60 min, 60 questions
Pre-algebra — 20-25%
Elementary algebra — 15-20%
Intermediate algebra — 15-20%
Coordinate geometry — 15-20%
Plane geometry — 20-25%
Trigonometry — 5-10%
40 min. scored on Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions
Which Test Should You Take? · Wide range of essay prompt topics on the Writing, whereas the ACT exam is more generally based on high school course concepts
· Known to have confusing question wording (more so than the ACT)
· If time is your issue, the SAT might be a better fit for you.
· ACT is more fast-paced than the SAT; there are more questions to be done in a shorter amount of time (215 questions vs. the SAT’s 154)
· More closely correlated to your high school curriculum/classes than the SAT
· Less dependent on English vocab than the SAT
Is Guessing Ok? · Yes! No longer penalized by 1/4 point for every wrong answer. · Yes! There’s still no penalty for guessing.
Big Scoring Changes to Know About · Essay is given 3 different scores and no longer affects the total score · The old “Combined English/Writing” score is the new “Writing” score, for those who sign up for the ACT w/Writing.
· Students who take the ACT w/Writing will have a separate “Writing” score along with an English Language Arts score (ELA–a composite average of English, Reading AND Writing) and a STEM score (average of Math and Science). Read more about the new rubric here:
· Key takeaway on ACT Writing = A student scoring 8/12 on the old scale for ACT scoring is given a 23 on the new scale, BUT a student with a 9/12 on the old scale is given a 30. The new scoring curve is very steep right at that point.
· The same scale score no longer represents the same rank order or performance level across different scores (*see table below).o For example, students need a score of 32 on ACT English to be at the 95th percentile, but a lower score of 30 on the ACT Composite, or 27 on ACT writing places them in the exact same percentile or rank order.

*Differences in ACT Scores at the Same Percentile:

Percentile English Math Reading Science Composite ELA Writing
95th percentile 32 30 32 30 30 28 27–28
80th percentile 25–26 25–26 26–27 24–25 25–26 23–24 22
60th percentile 21–22 21–22 21–22 21–22 21–22 20–21 18–19
50th percentile 19–20 19–20 20–21 20–21 20 18–19 16–17
35th percentile 16–17 16–17 17–18 18–19 17–18 16–17 14
20th percentile 13–14 15–16 14–15 15–16 15–16 14–15 11–12






Data compiled from: