The SAT and ACT are the two standardized tests colleges use throughout the country to help determine a student’s readiness for college. Every college is different and some may require one or both of the tests, along with many other requirements. A college may also require that you take the SAT subject tests.
Some scholarships require scores for certain tests, so that could be another good reason to take one or both tests.
You can take either test in your junior and senior years of high school, typically the spring of your junior year and the fall of your senior year. The sooner you take at least one of them, you sooner you will have time to retake it. We broke down each test based on the distinctive characteristics of each.

Divided into three sections

Critical reading – vocabulary and critical analysis

Mathematics – algebra, geometry, statistics, probability, and data analysis

Writing – multiple choice questions and essay

Each section is graded on a scale from 200 to 800

Reading section focuses on vocabulary

Can include subject tests such as:

English literature

History and social studies


Foreign languages

Typically used on the east and west coast


Multiple choice questions in four categories





Optional writing test

Only correct answers count

Each section is scored separately, then the composite score is the average of all four sections

Reading section focuses on grammar and punctuation

Typically used in the south and mid-west