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Differences Between the SAT and ACT and Choosing the Right Test for You

Recent changes to the SAT launched a critical difference between the SAT and ACT.  In January 2022 College Board announced that the SAT test will transition to a digital format while the ACT remains a pencil-and-paper exam. 

The new SAT will:

  • be entirely digital.
  • be shorter (approximately two hours instead of three) with more time per question.
  • be adaptive, with performance on early questions determining the level of difficulty in later questions.
  • have shorter reading passages with one question per passage.
  • allow calculators for the entirety of the math section.

College Board cites the following expected positive outcomes with the digital SAT:

  • The new test is easier to administer. Educators will no longer have to pack, sort and ship test materials.
  • Shorter and easier-to-administer tests will result in greater flexibility for when, where, and how often schools and test sites administer the exam.
  • More tests can be administered for free.
  • Scores will be returned within days, instead of weeks.
  • Greater test security. Every student receives a unique digital test.

When do changes take place?

  • Fall 2023 for all PSAT and international students.
  • Spring 2024 for U.S. students.


Other Differences: SAT vs. ACT:

Writing & Language
Essay (optional)
Length3 hours2 hours 55 minutes (with no essay)
Reading5 passages, 65 minutes, 52 questions4 passages, 35 minutes, 40 questions
English/Writing35 minutes, 44 questions45 minutes, 75 questions
ScienceNone35 minutes, 40 questions
MathNo calculator section: 25 minutes, 20 questions

Calculator section: 55 minutes, 38 questions

Concepts tested:
Algebra I & II
Data Analysis

Formula sheet provided
60 minutes, 60 questions

Concepts tested:
Algebra I & II

No formula sheet
CalculatorIncludes a ‘no calculator’ sectionCalculators allowed
ScoringScored on a scale of 400 - 1600Scale off 1 - 36

“The ACT is a very fast-paced test,” says neuroeducation specialist and experienced tutor Daniel Riseman. “The ACT takes more time to prepare a student because of the restricted timed conditions.  A lot of practice is required to prep for the pace of the test. Students who process information quickly and like science may enjoy the challenge of the ACT.” 

What’s the best way to determine the right test for you? Take a timed, full-length practice SAT and ACT test. Contact Vanessa and Sarah at Prep Academy Tutors to learn more.