act cost sat cost

We’re in the heart of college application season, which means that ACT cost and SAT cost are on the minds of many parents. With the rising cost of college applications, FAFSA changes, and an annual 7% increase in college tuition, many families want to carefully consider how they’re spending their money to optimize their child’s chance at getting into a “dream” college.

To make life easier, we have prepared an ACT and SAT cost guide for this school year with all of the important information gathered in one place. Everything you need to know about test costs, including basic cost information, late fees, fee waivers, and test prep costs can be found below.

If you’re new to the process, we recommend starting from the beginning, but if you’ve come with a specific question, feel free to use the table of contents below to jump to the relevant section(s).

Table of Contents

ACT vs. SAT: Which One Should You Take?

ACT Price

SAT Price

ACT and SAT Cost Comparison

ACT vs. SAT: Which One Should You Take?

If you are just beginning to scratch the surface of what you need to do to prepare for your child’s college application process, you may wonder, “what is the difference between the ACT and SAT?” The two tests are, broadly, very similar, but there are a few key differences. We break it down below:

The ACT and SAT are both standardized tests taken as part of the college admissions process. Many colleges assess potential students’ test scores as part of making admissions decisions. Although most colleges will accept either ACT or SAT scores, certain states require high school students to take one or the other. (No schools require both.)

For instance, these states require the ACT with the writing section:

  • Alabama, Hawaii, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.

These states require the ACT, though the writing section is optional:

  • Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah, Wyoming

These states require the SAT:

  • Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, West Virginia

These states require either the SAT or the ACT:

  • Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee

If you attend school in one of these states, you will need to take the indicated test to be accepted into college.

There are differences in content between the two tests, too. For example: the SAT contains a smaller percentage of geometry-based questions than the ACT, but the ACT covers more overall subject matter than the SAT (famously, the ACT has a science section, while the SAT does not).

Scratching your head? We get it—this stuff is confusing! That’s why we put together a complete guide to answering the crucial question: Should I take the ACT or SAT?”

Overall, it is best to take BOTH the SAT and the ACT, if you are able to. Having two sets of scores will help you stand out over other applicants who only met the minimum testing requirements. Taking both tests also helps students increase their financial aid opportunities: for example, students who take both tests may qualify for Questbridge scholarships, one of the best programs for students from lower-income backgrounds.

We know that keeping track of the costs of taking two tests can be overwhelming, so next we break down everything you need to know about the cost of taking both the SAT and the ACT.

ACT Price

When considering ACT prices, keep in mind that most fees are nonrefundable and any changes usually incur further fees. So, be sure that you are choosing the right test, test variation, date, and location when you register—learn more about registering for the exam with our guide on ACT 2023 test dates.

The first thing to note is that there are two different versions of the ACT test, each of which has a different ACT test registration fee. The ACT with Writing is $91, while the ACT without Writing is $66. Regardless of which ACT you are taking, this fee covers your ACT Test registration and up to six score reports for you, your high school, and four colleges. Make sure you have college codes when you register.

Are you a student from outside of the United States, hoping to register for the ACT? Learn more about ACT price information for international students.

ACT Fee Waiver

The ACT believes that no student should be held back from success due to financial constraints. Accordingly, they have created the ACT Fee Waiver Program. Through this program, students can take the ACT up to four times for absolutely no cost. This includes both versions of the ACT, both with the writing section and without. The waiver also covers a score report for your high school and up to six colleges.

If you qualify for an ACT Fee Waiver, it can significantly reduce your ACT cost. In order to be eligible, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • You are currently enrolled in high school.
  • You are in either grade 11 or grade 12.
  • You take your test in the United States, a U.S. territory, or Puerto Rico.

Additionally, you must also meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • You utilize a federal fee or reduced-price lunch program at school (based on U.S. Department of Agriculture income levels).
  • Your family’s total annual income is below the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture levels for free or reduced-price lunches.
  • You are enrolled in a program for the economically disadvantaged, and you fall into this category yourself.
  • You live in a foster home, or your family lives in federally subsidized public housing.
  • You are a ward of the state.
  • You are homeless.
  • Your family uses low-income public assistance.

To apply for an ACT Fee Waiver, first meet with your high school counselor to see if you are eligible. If you are, you can receive up to four fee waivers to take the ACT. Your waivers will include a code for you to use if you register online or by mail.

Finally, the ACT Fee Waiver program also earns you access to another important waiver which minimizes the overall cost of college applications. You will need to request a Waiver or Deferral of College Admission Applications Fee, and submit your fee waiver directly to the college to which you apply.

ACT Late or Change Fees

When it comes to ACT cost, it’s important to plan ahead; if you have to make a last-minute change to your ACT plans, it will likely cost you. For instance, if you choose the wrong test date and need to change it during the late period of a national testing date, you will incur a charge of $36. A general test date change or test center change is $42.

Another common problem is when students register for the ACT without the writing section but then realize that they actually need the writing section. To make this change costs an additional $25.

Additional Costs Associated with the ACT

But wait, there’s more! Depending on your circumstances, your ACT cost may be higher still.

If you miss the late registration deadline for the ACT, you may be eligible for Standby testing. On Standby, you receive an opportunity to test at a particular testing site. You’re not guaranteed a spot, though: you will only be able to test as a standby if there are enough spots, materials, and staff available. Standbys are taken on a first come, first served basis. Standby testing is an additional $66 and will be refunded if you do not get to test, or your registration is cancelled.

You may also want to send your ACT scores to additional colleges (beyond the four included in your test registration fee). Note that there are two different ways of doing this.

First, for $18, you can add in advance a fifth and sixth college to your list of those that will receive your scores. In this case, those colleges will automatically receive your scores once they are available. Alternatively, you can wait until your scores are released and then decide to send them to more colleges (for another $18).

Finally, you might want to know exactly how you performed on the ACT, not just your numerical scores. If so, you can also purchase a Test Information Release, which digitally delivers a detailed report of your answers (and a copy of your essay, if you took the ACT with Writing). Only certain people can request this report:

  • Those who took the ACT at a National test site.
  • Those who took the ACT on a National test date in December, April, or June.
  • Those who registered for the April test date, and tested through ACT Special testing.

The cost during registration of a Test Information Release is $32; for $40, students may also order one for up to six months after the test date.

Summary of All ACT Costs

Feeling the weight of the potential ACT cost on your shoulders? Here’s an easy-to-understand breakdown:

Test/Fee/Item What You Get: Price:
ACT without Writing Section Test and up to six score reports for you, your high school, and four colleges. Make sure you have college codes when you register. $66
ACT with Writing Section Test and up to six score reports. You, your high school, and up to four colleges will receive scores. Ensure you have any college codes before beginning the registration process. $91
Change ACT Test Option Change from an ACT without Writing Section to an ACT with Writing Section, or vice versa. $25
Change ACT Test Date or Test Center Allows you to switch testing dates or locations. $42
Late Registration Allows you to register during the late period for a National test date. $36
Standby Testing Gives you the opportunity to test, even if you missed registration. Standby testers are only allowed to test if there is enough space, materials, and staff. They are allowed into the test on a first come, first served basis. This cost is refunded if you do not test on your standby test date. $66
Add Two College Score Report Deliveries Choose to send your ACT score to two additional colleges. $18
Order More Score Reports Receive additional score reports.  $18
Add Test Information Release  Receive a detailed report of your ACT questions and answers. $32 during ACT registration
$40 after taking the ACT

And, our super-simplified version:

Typical Cost of Taking the ACT with no changes, additions, or late fees $66 without writing
$91 with writing
Potential Cost of the ACT with all fees and additional costs added About $368
Potential Cost of the ACT with ACT Fee Waivers $0

SAT Price

Now, it’s time to take a look at SAT cost. Compared to the ACT, you will notice the SAT is less expensive. Additionally, there is only one version of the SAT to choose from, since the SAT no longer offers an optional writing section. Your registration fee for the SAT will be $60.

If you are an international student, learn about SAT fees here.

SAT Fee Waiver

Like the ACT, the SAT offers a Test Fee Waiver Program. With your SAT fee waiver, you will be able to take the SAT for free twice. You will also receive two free answers services. To qualify for an SAT Fee Waiver, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • You are enrolled in grade 11 or grade 12
  • You live in the United States or a United States territory
  • You are a low-income student.

In addition, you must also be in line with at least one of the following qualifications:

  • You participate, or could participate, in the National School Lunch Program.
  • Your family makes less than the Income Eligibility Guidelines set by the US Department of Agriculture.
  • You are enrolled in another program for low-income families at the local, state, or federal level.
  • Your family receives other public assistance.
  • Your family resides in federally subsidized public housing.
  • You live in a foster home
  • You are homeless.
  • You are a ward of the state
  • You are an orphan.

Note that you can only use your SAT Fee Waivers if you take your SAT in grade 11 or grade 12.

There are also college benefits with your SAT waiver. You may send unlimited score reports to colleges, some colleges will waive your application fees, and you will have access to a free CSS profile for financial aid assistance. You will also pay reduced fees for your SAT score verification reports, and will not have to pay late registration or cancellation fees.

SAT Late or Change Fees

As with the ACT, failure to plan ahead or last-minute changes will increase your SAT cost. For instance, the cost for changing your SAT test center is an additional $25. A late registration—made after the SAT registration deadline and before the late registration deadline—is an additional $30, free with a fee waiver.

Finally, cancelling your registration before the change deadline is $25; if you choose to cancel your SAT Test after the change deadline, you will pay $35. Both are free with a fee waiver.

If you are unable to register for the SAT in time, you may have a chance to join the Waitlist (similar to the ACT’s Standby program). This typically costs $53, and is only charged if you are able to take the SAT on test day. This option is not available for the 2022-23 school year.

Additional Costs Associated with the SAT

Primarily, additional costs associated with the SAT are related to score services. For instance, while your first four score reports from SAT are included in the initial registration cost, additional score reports are $12. A rush order of your score reports (typical delivery within one to two business days, though it may take up to four) adds a fee of $31.

Note that rush orders are only available for scores that have already been released. These orders cannot be changed or cancelled. To place your rush order, you will need to sign into your College Board online account.

Some families like to receive SAT scores by phone, which costs $15 per phone call. These phone calls come at the same time as online scores; in other words, this will not get your scores sent to colleges any earlier than usual. To order scores by phone, you will need to call SAT Customer Service and have your information on hand.

If you’d like a copy of old test scores, a request for archived scores costs $31.

There are three more important services you may choose to purchase from the SAT.

  1. The first is their Question-and-Answer Service. The question-and-answer service shares a copy of your SAT test questions and answers for only $16. This report is only available in October, March, and May, and only in the United States and Canada. It is not available for makeup tests or alternate date testing.
  2. You may also choose to purchase a Student Answer Service, which gives you a list of the type of questions you answered on your SAT and an indication of whether or not you answered the questions correctly. This is also $16, and is available in August, November, December, and June throughout the United States.
  3. Finally, you can also purchase Multiple-Choice Hand Score Verification for $55. Multiple-Choice Hand Score Verification ensures that your test will be reviewed in-person, by hand (rather than by a machine). If you choose this option, you will lose access to your full online score report, and you will not be able to purchase the full answer services above. This service can be handy: if you marked your test incorrectly, SAT will take a look and see if they are able to rescore.

To order Answer Services, sign into your college board account or call SAT Customer Service. These services are not refundable once the reports have been sent to you.

Summary of All SAT Costs

Feeling lost among all of the different SAT exam fees? Here’s our detailed breakdown:

Test/Fee/Item What You Get:  Price:
SAT Test The full SAT test $60
Registration Change A change to your SAT test center $25
Registration Cancellation A cancelled registration, as long as it occurs before the deadline. $25
Late Registration Cancellation A cancelled registration, after the deadline. $35
Late Registration A registration placed after the deadline. $30
Waistlist Admittance to the SAT test on a waitlist basis. This is not available for the 2022-23 school year. $53
Score Reports An additional score report, sent to the college of your choice.  $12
Rush Order Your scores will be sent between one and four business days to your choice schools. $31
Phone Scores Your scores will be delivered by phone. If you choose this, you lose access to your full online score report. Also, this does not get your scores delivered any faster than in the traditional method. $15 per phone call
Older Score Reports Archived score reports delivered by either phone or mail. $31
Question-and-Answer Service Questions from your test along with your answer sheet. $16
Student Answer Service Types of questions from your test and information about how you answered these questions. $16
Multiple-choice hand Score Verification A closer look at your test done in person, in order to see if there was an error.  $55

And, our super-simplified version:

Typical Cost of Taking the SAT with no changes, additions, or late fees $60
Potential Cost of the SAT with all fees and additional costs added About $271
Potential Cost of the SAT with SAT Fee Waivers $0

ACT and SAT Cost Comparison

Now that we have looked in detail at ACT and SAT costs, it can be useful to see the SAT and ACT cost and fees compared in one place.

ACT Test, no writing $66 SAT Test $60
ACT Test, writing $91
Change ACT Test Date or Location $25 Change SAT Test Location $25
Late ACT Registration $36 Late SAT Registration $30
Standby ACT Testing $66 Waitlist SAT Testing $53
Two Additional College Score Reports $18 One additional college score report $12
Test Information Release $32 during registration, $40 after taking the ACT Question-and-Answer Service $16
Student Answer Service $16

Competitively Priced Online Test Prep with Piqosity

Is your head swimming with all of these figures of ACT and SAT costs? Make sure you have one less expense to think about by choosing Piqosity for your ACT test prep online or SAT test prep online. Piqosity prides itself on offering excellent, competitively priced test preparation materials for both the ACT and the SAT.

Our Reasonably Priced ACT and SAT Test Prep Packages Include:

If you’ve already taken the ACT or SAT and are wondering how to improve your scores, Piqosity’s extensive, exceptional online test prep offers an incredible set of resources, including full-length SAT and ACT practice tests with answers and explanations, designed to help you identify your weak areas and keep improving. When you sign up for Piqosity, you have access to our test prep materials for 365 days. So, no matter how many times you take the test, you will have the resources of Piqosity on your side.

The best part? You can try out all of Piqosity’s features with our free community account. When you’re ready to upgrade, Piqosity’s year-long accounts start at only $89. Plus, get a 10% off coupon just by signing up for our mailing list!