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Junior SAT/ACT Q&A

What are the SAT and ACT?

  • The SAT is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test created and administered by the College Board.
  • The ACT It is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test administered by ACT, Inc.
  • The purpose of both SAT and ACT is to measure a high school student's readiness for college, and provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants.
  • Colleges will accept either test and often use scores to award merit-based scholarships
  • If you are planning to attend a 4-year college/university, you will most likely need to test

Compare the SAT and ACT Tests

Why Take It Colleges use SAT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships. Colleges use SAT scores for admissions and merit-based scholarships.
Test Structure
  • Reading
  • Writing & Language
  • Math
  • Essay (Optional)
  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science Reasoning
  • Essay (Optional)
  • 3 hours (without essay)
  • 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)
  • 2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)
  • 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)
Reading 5 reading passages 4 reading passages
Science None 1 science section testing your critical thinking skills (not your specific science knowledge)


  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I & II
  • Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis


  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I & II
  • Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis
Calculator Policy Some math questions don't allow you to use a calculator. You can use a calculator on all math questions.
Essays Optional. The essay will test your comprehension of a source text. Optional. The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.
How It's Scored Scored on a scale of 400–1600 Scored on a scale of 1–36


Where to Register for SAT or ACT?

When should I take the SAT or ACT?

  • Generally, you will take the SAT/ACT in the spring of your junior year of high school, and then again in the fall of your senior year if you are looking to raise your score. For the spring of 2020, however, this is challenging with the shutdowns. SAT and ACT tests have been cancelled for the time being, but both SAT and ACT are looking at how to make them accessible once shutdowns have ended. SAT registrations for fall tests should open in May. ACT should open in July. Be sure to check out their websites for the most up-to-date information. Also, be aware that some colleges have already announced that they will waive SAT/ACT scores as entrance requirements for next year.

What are the SAT Subject Tests?

  • SAT Subject Tests are 20 multiple-choice standardized tests given on individual subjects. They are typically taken to improve a student's credentials for admission to colleges.
  • Most colleges/programs do not require a subject test. You should check with your intended college/program to see if they require one.

Should I do the Essay on the SAT or ACT?

  • Essays are not required for either test.
  • If you do well on the essay, it could help your college application, especially if your overall scores are lower. Not doing well on the essay will not adversely affect your overall score.

How much do these tests cost?

  • Currently, it costs $49.50 to take the SAT ($64.50 if you add the Essay portion). It costs $22 for each of the SAT subject tests, plus a $26 registration fee. The late registration fee is an additional $30.
  • The ACT costs $52 ($68 if you add the Writing portion). The late registration fee is an additional $30.
  • Both charge for extra score reports to be sent to colleges above the first four.
  • Fee Waivers for testing may be available from TRiO or the school counselors.

How long does it take to receive scores?

  • It usually takes about three weeks for test scores to be posted online.
  • Once you have your SAT scores available online, if you order your score reports, it will take approximately 1-2 weeks for a college to receive your scores.