The ACT is comprised of 215 English, Math, Writing, and Science questions, administered in 2 hours and 55 minutes (plus 30 minutes for an optional essay). The SAT is comprised of 170 Critical Reading, Math, and Writing questions and an Essay, administered in 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Students who tend to earn high ACT scores have a strong memory, are fast readers, and can process information quickly. Conversely, students who ace the SAT tend to read critically, possess strong vocabularies, and enjoy test-taking strategies. Said another way, teenagers who can speed through a test may ace the ACT because it requires them to answer 40 questions in the reading section in 35 minutes, whereas the SAT gives students 70 minutes to answer 54 reading questions, broken into 3 separate sections.
The ACT also tests a student’s memory because, unlike the SAT, it doesn’t provide the lines in the reading passages where answers can be found. But the ACT doesn’t contain obscure vocabulary and the reading passages aren’t as challenging as those on the SAT. By comparison, even though the SAT typically directs students to the exact line in a reading passage where the answer can be found, pinpointing the correct answer can still be difficult.
Unlike the ACT, the SAT requires a strong vocabulary because its sentence completion sections and the reading passages are peppered with words like diaphanous, irascible, languid, mellifluous, obsequious, peripatetic, and variegated. The bottom line is that choosing the right test could be the best way to boost your scores on either the SAT or the ACT.