Will Studying for the SAT Help With the ACT? The Answer May Surprise You!

If you’re preparing to apply for college, I’m sure you’ve heard of the SAT and ACT. Both are nationally administered standardized tests that colleges use to evaluate potential college enrollees. So, what’s the difference between the two tests? Can studying for one test help you with the other? Throughout this article, we will go over the differences and whether studying for the SAT will help you with the ACT.

So, will studying for the SAT help you prepare for the ACT? The answer is yes. There is a good deal of overlap in the two tests and preparing for the SAT will help you in your preparation for the ACT.

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SAT vs. ACT – Comparing the Two Tests

image of SAT scores
SAT Scores

To start, there are many similarities between the tests.

  • Both are standardized and available to high school juniors and seniors
  • They have similar subject categories, although the ACT includes science and an essay portion while the SAT does not.
  • Most colleges accept either one.

Let’s look at the main differences between the SAT and ACT:

Time Limit3 Hours3 Hours 55 Minutes
Writing Language
Math (no calculator)
Math (with calculator)
Essay (Optional)
Essay (Optional)
Score Range400-16001-36
Average Score105121
Cost to Take Test$52$70
SAT vs ACT Comparison Table

Can You Study for the SAT and ACT at the Same Time?

Since both tests are accepted by all universities, you can choose to study for one or the other. Both are used to test whether a student is ready for college, so you can’t go wrong with either. Both the SAT and the ACT cover similar material, so you can study for both tests at the same time. The difference in subjects is that the ACT covers science, while the SAT does not.

two students studying
two students studying

Studying for either test won’t hurt, we can always use more knowledge. If you start to study for the SAT and then decide to take the ACT, you will have a leg up on being prepared, and vice versa.

Is the SAT Harder Than the ACT?

Deciding if the SAT is more difficult than the ACT is subjective. It all depends on the student’s strengths and weaknesses. If you struggle with science, the ACT will probably be more difficult because of the science section which the SAT lacks. Colleges don’t have a preference on which test they accept, so it all depends on which one a student feels more confident in taking, which will come from studying and preparation.

Is Studying for the ACT Worth it?

If you plan on taking the ACT then the answer is yes, studying for the ACT is worth it. The earlier you start studying, the better. Your ACT score will be evaluated along with other materials to determine how you can apply your knowledge and critical thinking skills. It can make or break a college application!

studying materials
studying materials

There are study materials available online, groups to join, and videos to watch. The earlier you start studying, the better prepared you will be for your test.

Do College Prefer ACT or SAT?

If you’re worrying about which test is right for you, both the ACT and SAT are accepted by ALL colleges in the United States. Colleges do not have a preference if you’ve taken the time to complete one of them and have a good score. Anything telling you otherwise is incorrect. It’s all about which one you are most confident in taking, or which one your state requires you to take.

When Should I Start Studying for SAT or ACT?

Since everyone is different, it is up to you when you think you should start studying for these tests. That said, I would recommend that you begin preparations for either the SAT or ACT in the beginning of your Junior year of high school.

The good news is that if you don’t do well the first time, you can take the test again and combine your scores for an improvement. The best way to start studying is to take a practice test to see where you’re at.

After taking the practice test, you can pinpoint the areas you need to improve on and start there. Since there are many opportunities to take this test, don’t worry about long cram sessions. You can choose when you take the test and will have months to prepare.

Which Test Score is Easier to Improve?

Many students have an easier time raising their ACT score as it tests more on what you already know and learn in school. Both scores can be improved by retaking the test and combining your previous score with your new score to get a higher average. You can take the tests multiple times to hit your score goal.

Which Test is More Popular, the SAT or ACT?

Popularity of the ACT and SAT depends on the US region. According to StudyPoint.com, the SAT is most commonly taken on the East and West coasts. The South and Midwest have a higher rate of ACT takers. Since the tests come in different formats, different students will prefer different test styles.


studying with laptop and paper
studying with laptop and paper

To sum it up, studying for either the ACT or SAT will benefit you. The tests are designed to test your knowledge or what you already know, and how skilled you are at problem solving. A college will pair the test scores with grades and other application tools to determine how prepared a student is for college studies.

Depending on the region you live in, you may be required to take one test or another in school, but all 50 states offer both tests to students. If you don’t like one, you can always take the other. You cannot combine scores of the different tests, but you can combine multiple attempts of the same test to improve your scores. Taking practice tests will help you decide which test is right for you. Happy studying!

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Will Studying for the SAT Help With the ACT?