What is ACT? ACT vs. SAT

Interested in the ACT? Curious if a test other than the SAT could best showcase your student's intellect?

Noumena has the key info for you.

The ACT (American College Testing program) is a paper-based standardized test used by students to prove aptitude and gain admission to U.S. universities and colleges. The ACT is often considered secondary to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), but in recent years has come to be seen as its complement. ACT content is geared towards what students are expected to have learned in the classroom by that date. Generally, students more engaged in mathematics and the sciences opt to take the ACT.  Nonetheless, any student with enough learning and proper training may do well!

The Basics:

  • Total test time: 2 hours, 55 minutes
    (+ 40-minute optional essay)
  • Four sections: Reading, English, Math, Science
  • Essay section: Optional*
  • No penalty for wrong answers

*  Choosing to write the essay does not in any way affect the four main subject scores.  However, without the essay, no English Language Arts score can be reported.  

The Breakdown:

  • Reading: 35 minutes: 40 questions
  • English: 45 minutes: 75 questions
  • Math: 60 minutes: 60 questions
  • Science: 35 minutes: 40 questions
  • Optional essay: 40 minutes

Composite and Essay Scoring

  • Main Score: Composite 1–36 for four main sections. 
  • Essay Score: 1 - 36 points. Four writing domain scores, 2–12 points, translated into a distinct ‘writing test score’.
  • Essay Grading System: The essay is graded by two graders who each rate four aspects of the essay on a scale of 1 - 6. The four domains for the writing score are: ‘Ideas and Analysis’, ‘Development and Support’, ‘Organization’, and ‘Language Use and Conventions’. A third grader intervenes to settle any pair of scores more than one point in difference.

ACT & SAT : The Match-up
The infographic above highlights some of the key differences between the ACT and SAT. As these differences do affect students' preferences and performance, the best way to know the differences is to experience them. Noumena recommends taking multiple practice tests for both tests before making a decision.