Everything you Need to Know for Choosing New SAT or ACT

Everything you Need to Know for Choosing New SAT or ACT


Sometimes having no option is better than having more options. This is pretty apt for students appearing for ACT or New SAT this year. Many students are still confused that whether they should take up the NEW SAT or they should take up the ACT. New SAT has been completely re-designed and the ACT underwent some minor changes last year. The New SAT is no longer a reasoning-based test and has now become more straightforward. In fact, the new SAT is a lot like the old ACT. The new changes have eliminated most of the major differences in both style and content.

SAT has always been a cultural icon of American society. It has gone through many changes in all these years, but it has never been completely re-designed like this. As many students now prefer taking up ACT over SAT, the College Board is losing the market share and this change is their last-ditch effort to make the SAT popular again. Most tutors recommend not taking up the New SAT for first two-three rounds as the study material present for the new test is very limited and after two-three rounds everyone will have a much better idea of what awaits.

Let us look at the difference between the new SAT and the ACT to help you make better choices if you are still confused between the two tests.

Timings and Sections

new sat vs act test

The format of New SAT is different from its previous incarnation. The essay has become optional and the negative marking has also been removed just like the ACT.


The New SAT will only include longer passages instead of short passages and sentence completion. There will be some new questions that will include charts and graphics. It won’t be too difficult; these questions have been included keeping the motto of critical thinking and practical usage in mind. The format of this section is almost similar to that of the ACT.

The New SAT will have 5 passages from the following categories – 1 from the U.S. or World Literature, 2 from History or Social Studies and 2 from Science whereas ACT will be having 4 passages from these categories – 1 from Prose Fiction or Literary Narrative, 1 from Social Sciences, 1 from Humanities and one from Natural Sciences. The main difference in this section is the time allotted – Seventy-five seconds per question on New SAT and fifty-two seconds per question on the ACT.

Writing and English

The writing section of the New SAT has been re-designed in a way such that all the questions are in context. The focus of the new format is on writing style and argument rather than on grammar rules. The writing section will now be included in the same score as the reading; returning the SAT to its old 400-1600 scale. Like the reading section, it also includes charts and graphs in the passages.

This section is almost similar apart from the fact that the ACT has a lot more questions and it is slightly more focused on grammar and conventions. The New SAT gives a whopping 30 min for 4 passages having 44 questions whereas ACT gives only 45 min for 5 passages having 75 questions.


This is one section in New SAT which remains structurally similar to the old SAT, but the content is not the same. The SAT Math section has always been conceptually tougher than the ACT Math section. In the New SAT, advanced Math topics like Algebra and Trigonometry have also been included, but the questions now will be more straight forward and more related to what students learn in school. The math section will be divided into two parts – a non-calculator section and a calculator section. Don’t worry, the non-calculator section will be simple, like the kind of calculations that you can solve in your head.

The ACT Math test has remained largely the same even after the two minor changes that ACT went through last year. The ACT math contains a lot of geometry and trigonometry but the questions are pretty straight forward. The New SAT has allotted 55 min for 38 questions in which using calculator is allowed and 25 min for 20 questions in which using calculator is not allowed whereas ACT provides 60 min for 60 questions. Although the number of questions in New SAT is less and the time is more, the questions are tougher than that of ACT.  If you are a genius in Math, then New SAT is a good option for you, otherwise, SAT is a better option for average students.


The New SAT still does not have a Science section, but the College Board is trying to incorporate those skills in other sections. Students will be asked to analyze bars and charts and there will be two reading passages on scientific methods also.

The ACT will still have more questions of Science as they have a dedicated section for it. Students who are not very good in Science can opt for giving the New SAT, although Science section in ACT is not responsible for holding the score back for most students and it also requires less preparation than Math.


This is one section that is undergoing a major change in both the tests. The essay has also become optional in New SAT. Now the essay is optional in both the tests. Students must be breathing a sigh of relief after hearing this news. The essay section in New SAT will be focusing on dissecting an argument rather than making an argument. The students will be graded on the three skills – reading, writing and analysis.

The ACT essay will need you to analyze the perspective of an issue, create your own perspective and defend it with specific examples. Although this section is optional, make sure to check the criteria of the school that you want to apply to, whether it requires an essay or not.

So New SAT or ACT? How to Choose…

The New SAT has removed the negative marking, made essay optional and has become more content-oriented just like the ACT, but their underlying principle has more or less remain the same – critical thinking. If you were planning to take up the old SAT, then the New SAT might not be such a bad option. In fact with the essay becoming optional and negative marking being removed, you might find it easier. The drawback of the New SAT is the lack of study material and very little idea of the difficulty of the paper level, whereas the ACT has a plethora of study material available for preparations.

If you are still confused, then give a sample test for both ACT and New SAT, and see which one suits you better. Let us know in the comments section below which one are you planning to take up and why. Here is an infographic to help you make a better decision in New SAT vs ACT debate. 

New SAT vs ACT

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