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College Readiness: SAT vs ACT

In the U.S. public and private school systems, the phrase “College/Career Readiness” is used frequently. College Board says students are “College Ready” when they have the knowledge, skills, and behaviors to complete a college course of study successfully without remediation.

Students who possess sufficient mastery of key cognitive strategies, content knowledge, academic behaviors, and contextual knowledge would be defined as being college-ready according to Adolescent Literacy. David T. Conley, author of College and Career Ready, states college readiness is having key cognitive strategies such as intellectual openness, inquisitiveness, being able to analysis, use reasoning-argumentation-proof, have skills in interpretation, precision and accuracy as well as problem solving. Bottom line…the main component of succeeding in college is being prepared educationally and emotionally.

What do the SAT and ACT have to do with college readiness? The Manhattan Review has some great articles on why the two standardized tests were created and the emphasis of each test. In short, SAT was adapted in 1926 attempting to standardize college admissions procedures and increase access to higher education. The ACT, originally created as a competitor to the SAT, was first administered in 1959. A professor at the University of Iowa felt that the SAT focused on theoretical reasoning skills while the ACT could focus more on practical knowledge.

Today, both tests are used in college admissions and are accepted throughout the U.S. High schools typically allow students to take both practice tests between 8th and 10th grade in order to assess which final test they should take to attain the highest score and apply for college scholarships.

Although college readiness is more than academics, it is important to make sure your TCK has met standardized skills if he or she is considering pursuing education beyond high school.

Below you will find an SAT vs ACT chart. Both test are constantly being evaluated, so for the most accurate information we recommend going to the College Board website for SAT information:, and for the ACT visit


SAT vs. ACT Comparison Chart

Highest Score 1,600 36
National Average 1,060 21
How long does it take to complete entire test? 3 hours plus 50-minute essay (optional) 2 hours and 55 minutes plus 40-minute essay (optional)
What subjects are included in the test? Reading: 65 mins Writing and Language: 35 mins Math No Calculator: 25 mins Math Calculator: 55 mins Essay (optional): 50 mins English: 45 mins Math: 60 mins Reading: 35 mins Science: 35 mins Writing (optional): 40 mins
What is the total # of questions? 154 215
What is different between two tests? Vocabulary, Reason and Logic Science section is not included Based on courses taught in school Science section is included
Where can I get more information?
When are the tests offered? August, October, November, December, March, May and June September, October, December, February, April, June and July
When should I register? At least 4 weeks before the test date At least 5 weeks before the test date