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ACT vs SAT Exam: Which is Easier?


As an Indian student aspiring to study abroad, picking between the SAT and the ACT can be challenging. This guide simplifies the complexities of these standardised tests, helping you make an informed decision for your international academic journey. We will clarify the differences and similarities of the SAT and ACT, guiding you towards the test that best suits your goals and strengths.

Consider the story of Priya, a 17-year-old from Bangalore, whose ambition to attend a top US university led her to confront the challenging reading sections of the SAT. Initially, she scored 600, but her resolve did not waver. Turning to AECC for guidance, Priya switched to the ACT, finding its format more suited to her quick problem-solving abilities and science prowess. This shift was a game-changer, and her ACT scores soared to an impressive 33, exemplifying the importance of selecting the right test for your strengths. 

What is the ACT Exam?

The ACT, or American College Testing, is a globally recognised standardised test, increasingly popular among Indian students targeting US universities. It is designed to assess college readiness and academic abilities.

What is the SAT Exam?

The SAT, or Scholastic Assessment Test, stands as a significant standardised test for college admissions, especially in the US for Indian students eyeing international education, understanding the SAT's intricacies is as crucial as comparing "ACT vs SAT which is easier". Let's unravel the SAT's framework to aid your decision-making process.

Difference Between ACT and SAT Exam

As Indian students chart their paths to studying in the USA, understanding the distinct features of the ACT and SAT exams is pivotal. Both tests are gateways to higher education but have unique characteristics. Our comparison aims to demystify these differences, helping you align your academic strengths and goals with the right exam.




Main Focus

Critical Reading, Writing, and Maths skills

English, Maths, Reading, Science Reasoning, and an Optional Essay


Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, Optional Essay

English, Math, Reading, Science, Optional Writing (Essay)

Scoring Scale

400-1600 (Combined score of Reading/Writing and Math)

1-36 (Average of four test scores)


3 hours (plus 50 minutes for Essay)

2 hours 55 minutes (plus 40 minutes for Essay)

Maths Section

Emphasises algebra and data analysis

Includes more advanced Maths like Trigonometry

Calculator Usage

Allowed for one of the Math subsections

Allowed throughout the Math section

Reading Section

Focus on evidence support and data interpretation in texts

Emphasises speed and comprehension across various subjects

Science Section

No dedicated Science section

Includes a section on scientific reasoning and analysis


Analytical essay analysing a given argument

Optional essay assessing writing skills

SAT vs ACT: How are They Different?

Beyond the basic distinctions, it is essential to delve into how these differences might change your choice. For Indian students aiming for global education, each exam caters to varied skill sets and preferences.




Approach to Testing

Aptitude test focusing on reasoning and problem-solving

Achievement test assessing school-learned knowledge

Time per Question

More time per question for in-depth analysis

Less time per question for quick thinking

Reading Complexity

Longer passages with a focus on evidence-based questions

Shorter, more straightforward passages

Math Coverage

Algebra, geometry, and data analysis

Broader range, including advanced Maths like Trigonometry

Science Content

Science-related questions within other sections

Separate section for scientific analysis and reasoning

Essay Component

Analytical essay on a source document

Essay assessing writing skills and argumentation


400-1600 scale; no penalty for wrong answers

1-36 composite score; no penalty for wrong answers

Test Availability

Offered seven times a year internationally

Offered seven times a year internationally

Preparation Style

Requires strong vocabulary and reading skills

Quick application of classroom learning

Popularity & Recognition

Preferred for various courses worldwide

Increasing acceptance, especially for STEM fields

These nuances in testing style, content, and preparation requirements play a significant role in your decision-making process. At AECC, we provide tailored guidance and resources to help you navigate these differences and choose the exam that best suits your academic strengths and career goals.

ACT vs SAT: Exam Pattern and Score

Choosing between the ACT and SAT is a critical decision for Indian students planning to study abroad. Understanding the exam patterns and scoring methodologies of the " ACT exam vs SAT " is essential in making an informed decision. Let us dive into the details of "what is ACT exam" and "what is SAT exam" in terms of their patterns and scoring.




Exam Pattern

Comprises two main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math; optional Essay

Four sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science; Optional Writing (Essay)


3 hours for the main exam, plus an additional 50 minutes for the optional Essay

2 hours and 55 minutes for the main exam, plus an additional 40 minutes for the optional Writing section

Total Questions

154 questions (without Essay)

215 questions (without Writing)

Scoring Scale

400-1600, capturing "SAT  vs ACT  scores" comparison

Composite score of 1-36, a key metric in "ACT  vs SAT  scores"

Scoring for Optional Section

Essay assessed on reading, analysis, and writing skills

Writing section evaluated on a 2-12 scale, measuring writing prowess

ACT vs SAT: Exam Fee

Understanding the financial implications of taking the ACT or SAT is crucial. This section compares the exam fees, offering clarity on "SAT vs ACT" costs, a significant consideration for Indian students.




Basic Exam Fee

Approx. $55, an aspect of "SAT vs ACT" cost analysis

Around $60, key in comparing "ACT vs SAT " fees

Fee with Optional Section

Approx. $68 with Essay, considering "SAT vs ACT which is easier" with additional sections

Approx. $85 with Writing, relevant in "ACT vs SAT  which is easier" debates

International Processing Fee

Additional $49, a fact or in "what is SAT exam" cost for international students

Additional $60, pertinent in "what is ACT exam" expenses

Late Registration Fee

Roughly $30 extra

Around $35 extra

Change Fee

Approx. $25 for test centre or date changes

About $35 for similar changes in ACT 

Choosing ACT vs SAT: Tips to Consider to Study Abroad

For Indian students aiming for international education, the strategic decision between the ACT and SAT should align with their academic strengths and goals. This section offers targeted strategies and insights to help you choose the right test, whether you are considering "ACT vs SAT which is easier" or aligning the test with your academic aspirations.

Language Proficiency

  • SAT: Known for its emphasis on extensive vocabulary and complex text comprehension, choose the SAT if you excel in detailed text analysis and robust vocabulary.
  • ACT: Prioritises simpler language and straightforward reading comprehension, making it suitable if you prefer direct questions and quick understanding.

Mathematical Skills

  • SAT: Primarily focuses on algebra and data analysis, ideal if these are your strong suits.
  • ACT: Encompasses a broader range of topics, including trigonometry and geometry, fitting well if you have diverse Maths skills.

Science Reasoning

ACT: Features a dedicated Science section, assessing your ability to interpret data and scientific reasoning. Opt for the ACT if you are adept at analysing graphs and experiments.

Essay Writing

  • SAT Essay: Involves analysing a given argument, suitable for those with strong analytical writing skills.
  • ACT Writing: Focuses on evaluating different perspectives and articulating your argument, ideal for persuasive writing.

Personalised Test Preparation: SAT vs ACT

  • Mock Tests: Practice with full-length tests for both "SAT vs ACT". Analysing your performance can guide your decision.
  • Preparation Timeline: The SAT demands in-depth vocabulary and reading practice, while the ACT requires a more varied study approach due to its broader subject range.

Aligning with Future Academic Goals

  • SAT: Beneficial for Humanities or Social Sciences majors, due to its focus on critical reading and writing.
  • ACT: Preferable for STEM fields, given its Science Reasoning section.

Choosing between the SAT and ACT is more than comparing "ACT vs SAT scores"; it is about finding the right fit for your academic and career goals. Whether it is the analytical depth of the SAT or the diverse subjects of the ACT, the key is to align the exam with your strengths. At AECC, we dedicate ourselves to guiding you through this crucial decision. From customised exam preparation to university application support, we are here to turn your study abroad dreams into reality. Contact AECC today to begin your journey to academic success abroad!


Which exam is more popular, the SAT or ACT?

Globally, the SAT has been more popular historically, but the ACT has been gaining ground, especially in the US.

Do colleges prefer the SAT or ACT?

Most colleges in the US and abroad accept both SAT and ACT scores and do not express a preference for one over the other.

Can I take both the SAT and ACT exams?

Yes, students can take both exams if they wish, which can be a good strategy to see which one best showcases their strengths.

Does MIT prefer the ACT or SAT?

MIT, like many other universities, accepts both SAT and ACT scores and does not state a preference for either.

Is the ACT fast-paced?

The ACT is generally considered more fast-paced than the SAT, with less time per question.

Is SAT easier than ACT for the Reading section?

This depends on the student. The SAT Reading section is more focused on evidence-based questions and complex texts, while the ACT Reading is more straightforward but requires faster comprehension.

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