Ask Your College Counselor: ACT or SAT?

Should I take the ACT or the SAT?

Most colleges and universities here in San Diego and across the U.S. accept both the ACT and SAT tests as criteria for admission. But there are subtle differences between the two, especially if you're considering a career in math and science fields.

Part of our ACT and SAT test prep is advising you about which test to take, based on your academic goals and what is required by the schools you're applying to (or might apply to). Our ACT and SAT tutors have experience with hundreds of students from different backgrounds who have pursued varying career paths, so our instructors can answer any questions you have. We also have college counselors who can manage the entire application and admission process for you.

Learn more about ACT test prep

Learn more about SAT test prep

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The ACT provides two combined scores: ELA (English, Reading, and Writing) and STEM (average of Math and Science).

English Test

(75 questions, 45 min.) 

Read five passages and make corrections to:

  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Structure
  • Content ideas and concepts
  • Organization

Reading Test

(40 questions, 35 min.)

There are four sections of reading passages with corresponding questions about:

  • Structure
  • Main Ideas
  • Style
  • Interpretation

Math Test

(60 questions, 60 min.)

(Calculator optional*)

Math topics include:

  • Pre-algebra
  • Elementary algebra
  • Intermediate algebra
  • Plane geometry
  • Coordinate geometry
  • Elementary trigonometry
  • Complex word problems

*Calculators are permitted but not required for this section. Calculators that perform certain algebraic functions are not allowed.

Science Test

(40 questions, 35 min.)

The ACT Science Test is a reasoning and knowledge-based test. Students must read seven passages and answer questions about:

  • Data representation
  • Research summary
  • Conflicting viewpoints

The ACT Science Test is not just a measure of what scientific facts and formulas you have studied in high school. The test addresses how you evaluate scientific material and understand what is presented to you, and our ACT tutoring drills down on recognizing and resolving complex problems.

Contact us about ACT Test Prep

Writing and Language
Math (No Calculator)
Math (Calculator Allowed)

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Each subject section (English and Math) is scored between 200 and 800 in increments of 10. Students receive a total score between 400 and 1600 for the exam as a whole. If you're a little weaker in one subject, SAT test prep can help you balance your score.

The SAT is divided into four* sections covering two subjects, English and mathematics:

  • Reading
  • Writing and Language
  • Math (No Calculator)
  • Math (Calculator Allowed)
  • *Essay (optional)

The SAT also has optional subject tests for students to be ultra-competitive at colleges and universities that specialize in those areas:

  • Science
  • Languages
  • History

Reading and Writing

(52 questions, 65 min.)

Students must read five passages, which may include charts and graphs, and answer multiple-choice questions on the following topics:

  • U.S. or world literature
  • A document related to the founding of the United States
  • Science
  • Social sciences like economics, psychology, and sociology

Writing and Language

(44 questions, 35 min.)

Like the Reading Test, students read passages and examine visuals like charts, graphs, and tables to test critical thinking about the following:

  • Structure
  • Word choice
  • The effectiveness of an argument

Writing and Language also tests grammar, such as:

  • Clear and direct phrasing
  • Punctuation
  • Verb tense
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Combining Sentences

Students answer multiple-choice questions about corrections and improvements to the reading material.

Math Test (No Calculator)

(20 questions, 25 min.)

Fifteen questions are multiple-choice. Five are “grid-in" questions — the student answers with specific number that is then filled into a grid of integers, decimal points, and fraction bars.

Math Test (Calculator Allowed)

(38 questions, 55 min.)

Thirty questions are multiple-choice and eight are grid-in. Scientific and most graphing calculators are allowed, but smartphones, tablets, laptops, and calculators with QWERTY keyboards are not allowed. Devices capable of Internet access are not allowed.

The Math Test with Calculator includes algebra, geometry, and other topics in advanced math, including:

  • Linear functions
  • Linear equations
  • Systems of linear equations
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Statistics
  • Modeling
  • Exponentials
  • Radicals
  • Non-linear expressions
  • Word problems

Contact us about SAT Test Prep

If you Have Any Questions Call Us At 619.777.0973