The ACT and SAT are equivalent tests, and colleges accept scores from either exam. However, the tests do differ in some areas, including emphasis on different subjects, the wording of questions and the division of test sections.
While they are both general knowledge tests, the ACT covers slightly more ground, especially in the areas of math and science. The math section of the ACT covers trigonometry, while the SAT does not. Additionally, the ACT features an entire section dedicated to science, while the SAT does not. While both tests feature a writing section, the ACT writing portion is optional, and it is listed separately from the composite score. Many colleges, however, do require the ACT writing score.
The SAT features a greater emphasis on vocabulary than the ACT and less of an emphasis on math and science, which typically makes it a better choice for verbally skilled students. Accordingly, the SAT is known for having questions that are less straightforward than the ACT. While the ACT phrases its problems quite directly, the SAT often words its questions more abstractly, making it more difficult for some students to understand exactly what is being asked. Finally, the tests differ in the division of their test sections. The ACT offers English, math, science and reading in four large chunks, while the SAT spreads out reading, math and writing into 10 smaller sections.