The Revised SAT vs. SAT vs. ACT: Which test should I take?


The Revised SAT vs. SAT vs. ACT:

Which test should I take?ACT-SAT-rSAT

The revised SAT will launch in March of 2016, and the PSAT/NMSQT will debut in October of 2015, this fall. What will this all mean for current high school students? How will one know which test is the best fit for him or her? Let us guide you through the changes and how it impacts your options.

Which test is available to whom?

First of all, the ACT will be available to all current high school students. Although ACT is preparing to move their paper-based test to an adaptive computer-based format with free-response and hands-on questions, ACT has announced that they will offer both paper-based and computer-based options during the transition (probably starting in 2016). This would mean that the current ACT will be available to all current high school students, perhaps except for Class of 2018 waiting until their senior year to prepare for standardized tests (which should be avoided anyway).

The current SAT will be available throughout this year as well as on January next year, until the revised SAT is offered for the first time on Mar, 2016. On and after this test, only the revised SAT will be available. This means that the Class of 2016 & 2017 will have a unique opportunity to take either or both versions of the SAT that will count towards college admissions. Class of 2018 and beyond will need to prepare for the revised SAT.

Class of 2017 (current sophomores) will also be the first to take the revised PSAT to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship (NMSQT) in mid October 2015 (as a junior). Preparation for the revised PSAT should be done this summer and fall.

What are the differences?


Scoring differences



  • No penalty for wrong answers
  • Scoring is out of 36
    • 36 English
    • 36 Math
    • 36 Reading
    • 36 Science
  • Optional Essay scored separately (out of 12) or as combined English-Writing (out of 36)
  • Subscores available
  • 4 answer choices for multiple choice questions (except for math, which has 5 answer choices)


Current SAT

  • ¼ point penalty for wrong answers
  • Score is out of 2400
    • 800 for Math
    • 800 for Reading Comprehension
    • 800 for Writing
  • 5 answer choices for multiple-choice questions


Revised SAT

  • No penalty for wrong answers
  • Score is out of 1600
    • 800 for Math
    • 800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
  • Subscores and insight scores will also be available
  • Optional Essay will be scored separately
  • 4 answer choices for multiple choice questions


Content and time



  • 1 English test (45 minutes)
  • 1 Math test (60 minutes)
  • 1 Reading test (35 minutes)
  • 1 Science test (35 minutes)
  • 1 Writing test (30 minute, optional essay)


Current SAT

  • 3 Critical Reading tests
    • 2 x 25 minute sections
    • 1 x 20 minute section
  • 3 Math tests
    • 2 x 25 minute sections
    • 1 x 20 minute section
  • 3 Writing tests (10-25 minutes each)
    • 1 x 25 minute section
    • 1 x 10 minute section
    • 1 x 25 minute required essay
  • 1 Experimental section (content & time varies)


Revised SAT

  • 1 Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test
    • 65 minute Reading section
    • 35 minute Language and Writing section
  • 1 Math test
    • 55 minute section with calculator
    • 25 minute section without calculator
  • 1 Essay test (optional) – 50 minutes


Average time allotted per question (in seconds)



  • 36.0 English/Grammar
  • 52.5 Reading
  • 60.0 Math
  • 52.5 Science


Current SAT

  • 42.9 English/Grammar
  • 62.7 Reading
  • 77.8 Math
  • N/A Science


Revised SAT

  • 47.7 English/Grammar
  • 75.0 Reading
  • 84.2 Math
  • N/A Science


Focus of the tests



  • ACT tests more for the knowledge of what the student has learnt in high school
  • Less time is given for more straight-forward reasoning questions


Current SAT

  • SAT tests more for the students’ skills to reason
  • More time is given to think through the more difficult reasoning questions


Revised SAT

  • Revised SAT will align closely with the Common Core State Standards, such as:
    • Problem solving & data analysis
    • Evidence-based reading and writing
    • Expression of ideas
  • Even more time is given to think through the more difficult reasoning questions


Which test is a better fit?

ACT has traditionally been a test of knowledge, while SAT a test of reason. Therefore, ACT has a more fast-paced, “know-it-or-not” type of questions, while SAT is more like an “IQ test” built on top of the content they assume you know. The revised SAT seem to focus even more on the higher-level thinking and deeper understanding with its alignment with the Common Core standards, but it gives you more time.

Students who have had a strong foundation on vocabulary, reading comprehension, and analytical skills who are good at “figuring things out” will tend to do better on the SAT, while ACT tends to be a better fit for students that prefer a more straight-forward, knowledge-based type of questions and don’t mind the fast-paced test. This distinction, it seems, will be even more pronounced with the introduction of the revised SAT.

Where can I get help?

More Than SAT has been a leading expert in test prep for the last 18 years, and we have gone through many transitions and changes on various standardized tests. We can help families and students navigate through the different options and prepare them well for any tests:

  • Preparations for the ACT will be available many times throughout the year, with our classes aligned with the national testing schedules or with our one-on-one tutoring available at your convenience
  • Preparations for the Revised PSAT/NMSQT and Revised SAT will be available starting in the summer, in preparation for the October 2015 PSAT/NMSQT test:
    • Summer classes
    • Fall classes
    • One-on-one tutoring
  • Preparations for the current SAT will be available until the January test in 2016.


Contact Us

We are here to help. Please email with your questions and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text.