SAT and ACT: Tests for Admission to U.S. Universities

The SAT exam

If you’re planning to study in the United States, considering the ACT or SAT as part of your application is crucial. Your scores on these exams will not only influence your admission decision but can also impact your eligibility for merit-based scholarships.

  1. The SAT or ACT: History and Brief Characteristics
  2. What Awaits the Applicant: How the Exams are organized

The SAT or ACT: Overview and How to Sign Up

Here’s a brief look at the history and characteristics of these tests, along with guidance on the registration process.

A Glimpse into the History of SAT and ACT

The ACT and SAT are standardized exams that students typically undertake when applying to American universities. While most higher learning institutions require either of these exams, they seldom require both.

While their intent is the same—to demonstrate an applicant’s readiness for admission—the ACT and SAT employ different grading systems.

The SAT, or Scholastic Assessment Test, is an entrance examination for applicants to U.S. colleges and universities for undergraduate programs. It assesses applicants’ general educational levels in two areas—English and Mathematics. The SAT remains a critical criterion in the student selection process.

The ACT, or American College Testing, is an exam that most students in the United States undertake to gain admission to U.S. higher education institutions. It often complements high school transcripts. Since 2020, many U.S. universities have started moving away from standardized ACT and SAT tests.

The ACT’s precursor dates back to 1929 when Everett Franklin Lindquist, a professor at the University of Iowa Research, developed a set of tests for middle and high school students participating in the Olympiad. The ACT was officially announced in 1959 and has been available in electronic format since 2015.

You need to verify whether your preferred university accepts these exams by checking the university’s official website. Since all U.S. colleges and universities accept both the SAT and the ACT, neither test gives you a specific advantage—meaning, you can choose either exam and apply to any institution!

Registration Process and Costs

The ACT is administered on specific dates, usually during the fall, winter, and spring. Visit the official ACT website for exam dates outside the United States and the deadline for online registration.

Registration for the exam is done through your personal account on the official ACT website, usually a month before the exam. You’ll need to select the type of exam (with or without essay), provide your personal information, and pay the exam fee.

As of now, the exam costs $176.50 (without essay) and $201.50 (with essay). Late registration incurs an additional fee of $36. The exam fee covers sending results to four universities.

You can make specific changes to your registration between the completion of registration and the end of the late registration period, including adding or removing the essay writing option, changing the exam date, changing the test center, correcting personal information, and modifying the list of universities for result distribution.

On the other hand, SAT testing is conducted at certified centers. Registration for the exam and schedule information can be obtained from the official website of the College Board, the organization that administers the test. The test is typically conducted six times a year, with results posted on the website approximately two weeks after the exam.

The cost of the SAT is a standard fee of $60, plus a regional markup and a $43 regional fee. More details about the costs can be found on the official College Board website:

What awaits the entrant: how the exam is organized

Comparison SAT and ACT exams


The exam is administered as a computer-based test. You will be given a one-time password to log in.You are allowed to use some model calculators during the math section.

You may not use:

  • any books, textbooks, notebooks, notebooks that you have brought with you
  • colored markers
  • Your electronic devices, if you have them, you must turn them off and put them away
  • Do not eat or drink any beverages (including water) in the examination room.
  • No phones or other electronic devices may be used during breaks.
  • You may cancel your test results by notifying an official test center staff member immediately after the test is administered.


  • is graded on a scale of 400 to 1,600 points.
  • The test is administered in a “paper” format.
  • Most of the tests have four possible answers.

The SAT tests your mental mathematical and analytical abilities, your ability to interpret data from tables and graphs. The questions are more difficult, but the slower pace gives you more time to correct mistakes in your answers.

The ACT includes a science section and tests your ability to justify your statement. This exam is suitable for students who are less proficient in English because of its simple, well-structured form of assignments.

Since the main subjects on both exams are English, math, and science, focus on your strengths in these areas.

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