The biggest differences between the digital SAT and the ACT are:

  • The SAT is purely computer-based whereas the ACT is offered both online and in paper
  • The SAT is over 1 hour and 100 questions shorter than the ACT
  • The SAT tested math is a lower-level, and there’s no science section compared to the ACT

These top three points seem like a clear win for the newly launched digital SAT. However, the digital SAT is so new (only launching in March 2024) that there are bound to be some pitfalls such as:

  1. You might prefer a paper test
  2. The extra time and questions on the ACT might give you more of an opportunity to do better
  3. You might simply prefer the way that ACT questions are structured

Our experience working with thousands of students over the last 20 years is that fewer than 5% of students will score significantly different on the SAT vs the ACT. We doubt this statistic will change with the digital SAT, so don’t fret if your school requires you to take one test over the other.

Both the digital SAT and the ACT test core concepts from Math, English, and Data Analysis. Even though the SAT doesn’t have a dedicated science test, it does have “quantitative evidence” questions which are not too dissimilar. They are both peer-normed tests (you’re scored in comparison to your classmates).

Top colleges like Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford could not care less which test you take (so long as you do well); both the ACT are nearly universally accepted at US colleges. The ACT and SAT go back and forth between which exam is technically more popular when counted by completed tests; depending on the year, the ACT and the SAT each test between 1.7 and 2.2 million college-bound seniors.

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