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What's the difference between these 2 tests?

The ACT and SAT are the 2 major exams that students take to gain entry into colleges, but there are many differences.

  • The SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600, and the ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36.
  • SAT questions require more think time to respond, and the ACT is more straightforward.
  • The SAT has five reading passages compared to four on the ACT.
  • The SAT doesn't have a science test, but the ACT does.
  • Calculators are not allowed on the SAT math portion, but you may use on on the ACT math portion.
  • The SAT is 50 minutes because you answer more comprehensive questions.  The ACT asks you to evaluate and analyze complex issues within 40 minutes. 

What's the big deal?

  • Every college looks at the same 4 things. We call them the Big 4!
  1. GPA
  2. How challenging was your curriculum?
  3. Resume (What do you do besides go to school?)
  4. ACT score
  • ACT is a big deal because it is a standardized test. It gives colleges a chance to see how you stack up against students in other parts of the world that took the same test. The cost of the test varies, and it is usually about $55.00.
  • There are four required parts to the ACT and an optional fifth part.
  1. English – 45 minutes /75 questions
  2. Math – 60 minutes /60 questions
  3. Reading – 35 minutes /40 questions
  4. Science – 35 minutes /40 questions
  5. Writing test (optional)– 40 minutes – Check with your college that you are applying to in order to decide if you need to take the writing test. It usually costs about $25 extra to take the writing test.

How and when can I take the ACT?

We recommend that you take the ACT no later than early your junior year. Some students may take the ACT earlier if they are an advanced student and have taken advanced courses (especially math). The ACT math portion has a lot of Geometry and Algebra 2, and a little Statistics and Pre-calculus. Many students take the ACT several times. If you really want to score the highest you can, plan on taking the test multiple times. It is usually offered 6-8 times per calendar year on Saturdays at SHHS.  You can register at if you want to take the test on a Saturday. The deadline to register is usually about 4-5 weeks before the test date, so don’t procrastinate.

Cost of ACT Tests

Every student receives two free ACT tests. One is during your junior year in the spring semester. The other is during your senior year in the fall semester. The free ACT tests are offered during the school day. This year, the free ACT for seniors is planned for Sep 22nd. More info to come on how to register for your free ACT.  Fee waiver students may qualify for an additional free ACT. See your counselor for details.

ACT and Scholarships

If you want to try to earn academic scholarships, you need to plan on earning the highest ACT possible by November/December of your senior year. This depends on the college’s scholarship deadline.

How do I study for the ACT?

  • Do your homework and take challenging classes.
  • ACT preparation classes are available at SHHS.
  • Buy ACT study guides. They have practice tests and explain questions you missed.
  • Your counselor can give you a free practice ACT.
  • There are several free ACT study websites like and more.
  • ACT tutors are pricey, but they are usually a good investment at at around $40.00 per hour. Your counselor can provide contact information for tutors.

Goals for the Composite ACT

  • 18+ in English - This makes a student eligible for college-level English when they begin college.
  • 19+ in Math - This makes a student eligible for college-level math courses.
  • 21+ - This makes a student eligible for the HOPE scholarship.
  • 25+ - Many colleges start to offer guaranteed academic scholarships at 25 points or higher. Every point matters and means more money in your pocket!

Important Links

Register for ACT 


Last Updated: August 29, 2022