SAT to ACT Score Conversion

SAT to ACT Score Conversion

December 7, 2018

Converting your SAT score to an ACT score is all a part of determining which test is right for you. If you're reading this, more than likely you are weighing the pros and cons of both tests, trying to arrive at a conclusion regarding which one is best for your skills, capabilities, and undergraduate goals. Have you taken practice exams for both tests? Are you familiar with the ins and outs of how each test works and the areas in which it evaluates? Naturally, there's a lot to consider when it comes to deciding if the SAT or ACT is right for you.

Taking your SAT score and converting into an ACT score is a technique you can use to determine how you would do on a potential ACT if you were to sit for the exam. While they are two different tests, there is a way to determine what your prospective ACT score would be if you have your SAT score handy, the formula for which we will explore in this article.

However, the topic of SAT to ACT score conversion brings into focus larger questions about both tests, such as: What are the main differences and similarities between them? How is each exam scored? What are advantages and disadvantages of both, given a particular student's aptitudes and skillsets? Let's dive further into this topic in an attempt to help you reach a conclusion as to which test is right for you!

SAT vs. ACT: The Basics

Since the SAT and ACT are the two primary rival exams for undergraduate admission, it's important to take note of their differences and similarities. Below is a breakdown of the main points of difference, detailing testing time, order of sections, time per section, number of questions, scoring, cost, as well as acceptance rate. As you're reading through this information, make note of the new tidbits of data you find, as many students find they have preconceived notions of what both exams are without really knowing the actual differences and similarities.

Total Time2 hours 55 minutes w/out Writing
3 hours 35 minutes w/Writing
3 hours w/out Essay
3 hours 50 minutes with Essay
Order of SectionsEnglish, Math, Reading, ScienceReading, Writing & Language, Math No Calculator, Math Calculator, Essay (optional)
Time Per SectionEnglish: 45 minutes
Math: 60 minutes
Reading: 35 minutes
Science: 35 minutes
Writing (optional): 40 minutes
Reading: 65 minutes
Writing & Language: 35 minutes
Math No Calculator: 25 minutes
Math Calculator: 55 minutes
Essay (optional): 50 minutes
Number of QuestionsEnglish: 75 questions
Math: 60 questions
Reading: 40 questions
Science: 40 questions
Writing (optional): 1 essay
Reading: 52 questions
Writing & Language: 44 questions
Math No Calculator: 20 questions
Math Calculator: 38 questions
Essay (optional): 1 essay
ScoringTotal Scoring Range: 1-36Total Scoring Range: 400-1600
Cost$46 without Writing
$62.50 with Writing
$47.50 without Essay
$64.50 with Essay
Acceptance of ScoresAll colleges & universities in the U.S.All colleges & universities in the U.S.

At the end of the day, it's important to keep in mind that all colleges and universities in the U.S. accept either the ACT or SAT for undergraduate admissions purposes.

ACT Scoring

Are you totally aware of how the ACT is scored? Before we delve into scoring conversions from the SAT to the ACT, let's take a look at how test administrators derive at composite ACT score conclusions. As you can see, a scaled ACT score is created from English, Math, Reading, and Science raw scores.

Scaled ACT ScoreEnglish Raw ScoreMath Raw ScoreReading Raw ScoreScience Raw Score

Clearly, the best way to improve your scaled ACT score is to enhance your performance in all four sections of the exam.

SAT Scoring

The SAT scoring is based on two sections—the EBRW and Math sections, both worth 800 points. The worst score you could get on the SAT is a 400; a perfect score consists of 1600. Basically, for every question you answer correctly on the SAT, you receive one point. There is no penalty for guessing or skipping. Raw scores are determined by total number of questions answered correctly, that is then converted to a scaled score. Below is a sample chart for Math scores to give you a better idea of this process:

Raw ScoreMath Section Score

SAT to ACT Conversion

Here we are, the part you have been waiting for. The following conversion chart is taken from the new SAT, which was revised in 2016 and scored on a scale up to 1600. If you have taken the SAT in the last few years, this is the score and range you will have in order to determine your ACT. Below you can see the SAT range and its corresponding ACT score. Please note: This conversion table only goes to a 20 in terms of ACT scoring, as we know this article is for top scorers.

New SAT Total ScoreACT Total Score

For those of you who have an SAT score from the older version of the exam—before 2016—below is a conversion chart into a prospective ACT score. The range for the older SAT is 600-2400, and our ACT score only goes to a 30.

Old SAT Total Score (600-2400)ACT Total Score

Advantages of Both Tests

When eyeing both exams, it's imperative to keep in mind the reasons some students choose to take one exam over the other. Below are a list of advantages that can be found on any pros and cons list when it comes to determining which exam is right for you. Do you see some of your own in the list below?

Advantages of Taking the SAT: 

  • All colleges & universities accept the SAT for undergraduate admission
  • The SAT does not have a Science Section
  • The SAT does not cover as many math concepts
  • Some scholarships require the SAT; similarly, some states require it, too
  • Some post-undergraduate job prospects may require an SAT score

Advantages of Taking the ACT: 

  • Similar to the SAT, some scholarships require an ACT score for merit-based financial aid
  • The ACT is lighter on Algebra than the SAT
  • The ACT allows you to use calculators throughout the math portion
  • The essay portion asks your opinion

The Takeaway

At the end of the day, you have to go with the test that will best serve your admission needs and academic skillset. Even though it may seem daunting and time-consuming, taking the time to find out which test plays to your strengths and makes you look better on paper is well worth the initial investment. Thankfully, this conversion table can help you find out how well you line up in regards to either exam.

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