SAT Math vs. ACT Math: the Key Differences

SAT Math vs. ACT Math: the Key Differences

What are the key differences between SAT Math vs. ACT Math?

It is no secret that colleges and universities use SAT or ACT scores to make admission decisions. Schools mainly look toward test scores to determine student acceptance; this is necessary to avoid reviewing thousands of applications, transcripts, essays, and other documents. Both exams cover the same material, used to determine mastery skills in high school math.

ACT is a multiple-choice test administrated by ACT inc. The purpose of the exam is to see if students are ready for college by evaluating students in reading, writing, and math. The math section contains two parts.

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SAT Math vs. ACT Math: In a Nutshell

The SAT is older than the ACT; the College Board administers the SAT exam. The test is comprised of reading, writing and language, math, and an optional essay.

In a nutshell, the exam has five sections, including a math section. The essay portion at the end is optional. But just to be safe, consider researching to determine which school requires you to complete the bonus essay portion. 

The ACT is a standardized test used to evaluate problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, and how a student handles college-level material. The test has 60 minutes with 60 multiple-choice questions based on topics covered in high school split up into four sections with a bonus writing section.

The key difference between the SAT and ACT exams is that the SAT gives you more time in each section to work through the problems. In contrast, the ACT is more time-restricted and has more questions than the SAT exam.

What’s the breakdown of SAT?

The STA’s test for advanced understanding of mathematical concepts, highly strategic in your thought process to solve these problems, and effectively finds a solution through shortcuts, problem inspection, or manipulation.  The exam is divided into two parts with 58 questions. You have approximately 80 minutes to complete the exam.

  • The first part takes 25 minutes with multiple-choice 20 questions
  • 55 minutes with 38 multiple-choice questions and a calculator is permitted.

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Divided into three sections:

Heart of Algebra: (19 questions)                             

Linear Equations and InequalitiesSystems of Linear Equations & Inequalities with Graphs 

Problem-Solving and Data Analysis: (17 questions)

Statistic   Percentages Graphs   

Passport to Advanced Math: (16 questions)

Quadratic Nonlinear EquationsExponential equations and graphs 

Additional Math Topics: (6 questions)

Geometry Trigonometry

What’s the breakdown of ACT?

  • English is 45 minutes with 75 questions
  • Math is 60 minutes with 60 questions
  • Reading is 35  minutes with 40 questions 
  • Science is 35 minutes with 40 questions
  • Writing (optional): 40 minutes and 1-essay

For the math portion, students will have 60 minutes to complete all 60 questions. There are six questions based on: pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, plane geometry, coordinate geometry, and trigonometry.

Algebra: (33 questions)

Questions based on Math terminologyManipulation of fractions and decimals
Number theory 

Geometry: (23 questions)

Plane geometryAngles

Trigonometry: (4 questions)

sine, cosine, and tangent functions Trig identitiesgraphs

Here is an in-depth breakdown of the key differences between the two standardized exams?

The SAT and ACT exam both function in unique ways, whether it’s allowing students more time or having a section exclusive to science and the use of time management. But, whatever it is, one thing that remains the same is the clearly defined mathematical concepts.

Here are some well-defined differences between the two; that will help you understand how both exams work and why there are so unique:

                 SAT Exam                       ACT Exam
More time to work through problemsLess time to answer questions
The test does not have a science sectionUnique science section
A short section dedicated to geometry and trigonometryExtensive section on geometry and trigonometry
A mix of multiple chosen and response questionsOnly multiple choice
SAT score is 200 to 400The scoring is different ranges from 1-36
SAT has 4-optional questionsYou can guess on the test and won’t face penalization.

Which exam should you take?

Luckily colleges do not have a mandatory requirement on which type of exam you should take. However, both tests can be complex if you do not study, so do not measure the difficulty. Instead, pay attention to the exam format and see which one is the right fit for you.  

Understand your strengths by practicing both exams and getting familiar with the material and format. For example, if you are a calculator expert, proficient in geometry, trigonometry, and science: the ACT exam is a perfect fit. The foremost vital takeaway to find which exam is proper for you is to practice both exams.

Get the best out of your study time with these tips.

Preparing for the SAT and ACT can be difficult. Not to mention test day can be even more nerve-racking. We all have been there. The best advice from one college graduate to a future college student is to practice, practice, and do more practice.

Preparation allows you to develop a habit, and from your habits, you will find comfortability.  For the best ways to maximize your skills and gather as much knowledge as possible can, check out these simple tips: 

  1. Study at the same time every day for as long as you need.
  1. Do practice exams to build confidence and familiarize yourself with the material.
  1. Time yourself when solving problems; this will help you build stamina and become a fast test taker.
  1. Finally, it is ok to be nervous on exam day.  Prepare yourself, and you will be fine.

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