Questions. We all have them. Choices. We all face them. Decisions. We all make them.
You’re probably no different. As a test taker, prepping for an upcoming ACT or SAT, you’re certainly used to tough choices by now. Life has taught you to compare and contrast, to weigh the pros and cons.
College is still ahead of you, but you’ve already faced some of life’s most difficult questions: iPhone or Android? Republican or Democrat? Stranger Things or Stranger Things 2?
And now a new choice arises: Should I take the ACT or the SAT? (Or both?)
In order to make that decision, it’s important to know the differences in the tests. This post will deal specifically with the math sections of the ACT and the SAT — similarities, differences, number of questions, scoring, average time per question, etc.
ACT Math vs. SAT Math: Tale of the Tape
Which test lets me use a calculator?
Advantage: No real edge to either test here because there is no need for a calculator on the SAT Math No Calculator section.
How long is the actual math section?
Advantage: Slight edge to the SAT here — two fewer questions, approximately 15 more seconds allowed to answer each question, and a break between sections.
How are the questions formatted?
Advantage: If you prefer multiple-choice questions, ACT wins this round.
What mathematical concepts are covered?
Advantage: No advantage for either test here. The content is pretty similar, but the way it is presented is notably different — ACT Math asks questions in a more direct way; SAT Math questions are phrased in a way that requires a bit of reading comprehension.
Are formulas provided?
Advantage: If you have forgotten your mathematical formulas, the SAT has an advantage here. However, with solid ACT test prep in advance, this shouldn’t be an issue for you.
How are the math sections scored?
Advantage: ACT gains an edge here because they issue no penalty for incorrect multiple-choice answers. (Note: The ACT and SAT both convert raw scores into a scaled score. These are the scores you receive when test results are released.)
When we look at the side-by-side comparisons of the ACT Math and SAT Math sections, the tale of the tape shows us it’s a draw. They have slight differences that should be considered, but that doesn’t mean one test is easier (or harder) than the other.
Asking ACT or SAT? is the test-taking equivalent of asking Instagram or Snapchat? They both have similar features, and they both get the job done, so it’s really more about the user’s preference. Besides, you can always use both!
Deciding which test to take (or whether to take both tests) is more about your preference. The best way to make your decision is to talk to other students who have taken the tests, sit down to take practice tests, and delve into specialized, high-stakes exam prep for either or both products.