The Differences Between SAT and ACT and Frequently Asked Questions

The SAT and the ACT are a mystery to many British parents as there is no equivalent in the UK educational system. Read all about the exams here, and decide which is best for you.

The Differences Between SAT and ACT and Frequently Asked Questions

The SAT and the ACT are a mystery to many British parents as there is no equivalent in the UK educational system. Read all about the exams here, and decide which is best for you.

SAT vs ACT FAQs

The SAT and the ACT are a mystery to many British parents as there is no equivalent in the UK educational system.* We often get asked to clarify what these exams are and how they work. There is a rather extensive mythology surrounding the SAT and ACT as well as which exam to take and when. I hope that this page will clarify some of the questions that parents have surrounding the exams.

What are the SAT and ACT Exams?

The SAT and ACT are exams required by US universities. Students have a choice between the two exams. Their purpose is to distinguish between high school students on an even playing field by testing a student’s aptitude for learning rather than relying on subjects taught in school. If you would like to learn more about each exam in detail, you can read more about tutoring for the SAT and ACT.

When do I take the SAT or ACT?

Most students will have their first attempt at the SAT I or ACT in the autumn of their Junior year (AS year) with their final attempt in autumn of Senior year (A level year). There is no penalty for taking the exams as many times as you like. Only the best score is sent. Therefore, there is no advantage in demonstrating that you can score very highly on the first try - but doing so is advantageous for your quality of life during the final two years of school! There are various test dates throughout the year, but it is worth noting that there are fewer in the UK and the book up quickly.

I have heard that the SAT has something called “superscoring” - what is it and how does it affect me?

Superscoring refers to the fact that, for the SAT I, the best result in each individual section is considered. Let’s say you took the exam twice. On one day, you scored an 800 in Math but only a 650 in Writing and Reading but the next time you sat it you scored an 800 in Writing but only a 650 in Math. Your total score would be 800 Math 800 Writing 650 Reading for a total of 2250. Students often put a lot of emphasis on the ability to “superscore” with the SAT. In our experience, students rarely manage to significantly alter their score as a result of this phenomenon. Therefore, having one good day is always preferable to several mediocre test days.

Do universities prefer one exam to the other?

The short answer: no. The SAT and ACT are, in true American style, competitors. The SAT used to be more popular, but, in the past twenty years, the ACT has gained considerably more traction. The SAT is even undergoing major revision as these two exams compete for the attention of students. The way the score reports for these exams are read differs slightly. For example, in the SAT, individual subscores carry more weight. This is in part due to the ability to superscore section results and in part due to the nature of the score being out of 2400. By contrast, the ACT average score is perhaps more important than any individual subscore. Thus, if a student is particularly weak in one section, the ACT may be a better option.

I have heard that The ACT is “harder” - is this true?

The short answer: No. The exams are suited to different students. The ACT has a science section and a more difficult mathematics section. For a British student who has not continued with maths or sciences after GCSEs, the ACT is a much more difficult exam to tackle. Although the level of mathematics is probably only a term above what would be expected at GCSE, keeping maths skills fresh when they are not being reinforced in school is in itself a challenge. For reference, American students do not stop taking maths in school at 16 regardless of their subject choices at university.

How do I choose which exam to take?

Exam choice depends on the student. The questioning on the ACT is often considered more straightforward by students. Students often prefer the ACT initially as an exam due to its familiar style. Many students start out disliking the SAT but find that, over time, they improve more with it than they expected. We recommend that you take a practice test in both exams if you have the time to make a decision. Realistically, however, your circumstances as a student will often dictate which exam is best for you.

English is not my first language, and the SAT vocabulary is hard. Does that affect which exam I should take?

The short answer is, again, no. Our international students often find the SAT I vocabulary very difficult. It is explicitly tested unlike with the ACT. The vocabulary is a small portion of the exam, and therefore should not be the sole decision-making tool. We have tutors who are very adept at helping students to tackle SAT vocabulary. The very good news here is that the SAT is changing, and the vocabulary will no longer be a part of the exam.

I have heard that the SAT is changing! What do I do?

You’re absolutely right. The SAT I is fundamentally changing. The last test date for the old SAT I is January 2016. Please see our dedicated page on the SAT I and what changes in the SAT I might mean for you.

* This is not strictly true. The medical school admissions test, the UKCAT, is actually very similar albeit much shorter.

Selected SAT & ACT Testimonials

Please see below some example SAT & ACT Testimonials that we have received. If you would like to hear more, you may be interested to read about our tutor guarantee or to read about Wentworth Tutors' philosophy and approach in a letter to parents from Dr Katherine Wiles, our Founder. Alternatively, some more SAT & ACT Testimonials can be found on our dedicated testimonials page, where you can filter by subject.

SAT/ACT | Sophia Ohler

"We're very impressed with Sophia, she's lovely and [my daughter] gets on with her very well. Sophia is very inspiring and a good role model for [her]." ... See Sophia Ohler's tutoring profile.

SAT | Wentworth Education Private Tutoring

"[The tutor] was fantastic at knowing what parts of the Chemistry syllabus I hadn’t covered. My score improved from a 650 to a 790!"

SAT I | Dr Katherine Wiles

"Katherine was incredible. [My daughter's] score improved beyond even her own expectations. She ended up perfect scoring Critical Reading which was her weakest section!" ... See Dr Katherine Wiles's tutoring profile.

SAT | David Wilkinson

"Well I took the SAT yesterday and it was actually really fun. There were specific questions where I knew I wouldn’t have been able to do them if I hadn’t done that prep with you." ... See David Wilkinson's tutoring profile.

ACT maths | Oliver Jackson

"The feedback from Oliver has been really helpful. We are all feeling more relaxed and confident for Jack to take the ACT next weekend, as Jack now understands the maths problems more fully. Thank you Oliver! " ... See Oliver Jackson's tutoring profile.

SAT | Arina Patrikova

"I recommended Arina to a friend whose son needed to improve his SAT score. With her guidance he achieved a dramatic improvement in one month of work. She has a "can do" attitude and a thorough knowledge of the US educational system. " ... See Arina Patrikova's tutoring profile.

Selected Profiles of our SAT & ACT Tutors

Please see below some example profiles of the SAT & ACT Tutors that we represent. If you would like to hear more, you may be interested to read about our tutor selection criteria or to read about Wentworth Tutors' philosophy and approach in a letter to parents from Dr Katherine Wiles, our Founder. Alternatively, some more profiles of our SAT & ACT Tutors can be found on our dedicated tutors page, where you can filter by subject.

I grew up in London, and was in school at Godolphin and Latymer before deciding to head to the US to attend Phillips Academy, Andover. I then went on to study History of Art at Harvard University where I graduated magna cum laude with high honors. After two years working at an art gallery in New York, I am happy to be back in London pursuing my master's degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Throughout my education I have benefitted form tutoring to help me achieve my academic goals and I understand how effective one-on-one teaching can be in preparing for big tests, catching up in a specific subject, and also building confidence. Along with tutoring for both UK and US entrance examinations, I am particularly helpful and interested in working with students who need help with their personal essays or general applications for boarding school or university. As an alumni admission representative at Phillips Academy, I have worked with many students who are working on preparing applications to boarding schools and enjoy helping them to identify their strengths and use those to build a strong application. ...
I recently completed my Natural Sciences degree at Christ's College Cambridge, where for my first two years I read maths, physics, and chemistry. In my final year I received the second highest First in the university in history and philosophy of science. Before Cambridge I went to Oundle School, a private boarding school in Northamptonshire.

After a stint working at the Cabinet Office I am now conducting freelance policy research. My timetable is flexible and essentially self-managed, giving me lots of time to tutor outside of my other work.

I have now been tutoring for over eight years. I primarily teach maths, physics, and chemistry at UK GCSE and A level, but have recently begun more intensive tutoring for the USA ACTs, SATs, and PSATs. ...
I'm originally from New York, and have been living in London for a bit over a year now. After graduating from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Creative Writing (Cum Laude), I received my Master's degree from the London Film School. I've been privately tutoring for years, as a peer tutor on Harvard's campus with the Bureau of Study Council, as well as with private agencies. I also have extensive experience as an Admissions Representative in the Harvard Admissions Office. I specialise in the American curriculum and US College Counselling, but know and work with the English curriculum as well. ...
After achieving straight A*s at GCSE and A-level, I graduated from UCL with a First Class Honours Degree specialising in economics, psychology, neuroscience, French and geography.

Since then, I have focussed all of my energy on engaging with education in as many ways possible: I have become a guest lecturer at UCL (on an undergraduate course), a teacher at a secondary school in London, and an education consultant to the Times Educational Supplement (TES). I am also lucky enough to have been asked to have a role on the Board of Directors for World Education Connection, an initiative that connects thousands of students from the USA and Tanzania using technology each year.

I am currently undertaking a Master's in Education, whilst being a full-time teacher and professional musician. ...
I am a recent graduate of the University of Oxford, where I received a first-class MPhil in Politics. At Oxford, I was a Rhodes Scholar at New College, and I served as Tutor in politics at Keble College. Prior to my arrival in the United Kingdom, I attended Brown University, where I double-majored in history and economics, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Following graduation in 2014, I spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar at the Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, I am fluent in both American and British education systems — and have a passion for education, more broadly. My areas of expertise are maths, history, Spanish, College Counselling and preparation across the board. ...
I am a highly experienced private tutor, having been tutoring part time since graduating with a First Class degree from Cambridge in 2013, and full time since achieving a Distinction in my Masters at the University of London. I put into practice the approaches I have learned from the outstanding teachers I've had on my educational journey, and have accumulated a wealth of experience that ensures I can discover the right approach for each individual tutee.

I have a particular interest in teaching English, Politics, and for entrance exams (with especial experience teaching for 11+ and Common Entrance) and have tutored English and humanities subjects from KS2 up to undergraduate level. Having worked at schools, and been a senior tutor at a tuition centre, I have devised work for a wide range of pupils of different abilities and tailored teaching and approaches to support their needs, and have a detailed knowledge of a wide range of curricula.

I am also an experienced public speaker and debate coach, and all my tuition is designed not just to bolster my tutees' techniques and understanding, but also their confidence, interest, and ability to enjoy the subject. Observing my tutees' success and their growth in confidence makes me very happy. ...
I taught Latin literature and Greek language to undergraduates during my D. Phil. at the University of Oxford (2008-2009), both in individual tutorials and in the classroom. I have advised students on Oxbridge and US University applications and interview preparation, with a 100% success rate at Oxbridge interviews. Drawing on my own experience of the US educational system, I have also helped my students secure successful outcomes in preparation for SAT and SAT Subject Tests (Latin and French) examinations.

Since 2003, I have tutored over 50 students, ranging from 8 to 20+ in age, in French, Classical languages, and Russian. Some of my most recent "case studies" are at the very bottom of the page. ...
Born in New York City, I moved to the UK when I was 12 years old. I attended two North London day schools: The Hall and University College School. I completed both US and UK university applications. I attended Georgetown University, where I earned a Bachelor's degree from the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

I am familiar with the challenges associated with applying to US universities from the UK, as well as what is required to prepare for the SATs in the UK system. I have worked as a trained English teacher abroad and a junior athletic coach in New York City. ...
I have experience teaching a range of ages, both privately part-time and in full time employment as a teacher at Hurstpierpoint College, where I worked for a year before starting my degree at Oxford University. I have a particular interest in entrance into the UK's top schools and Universities, teaching 11 plus, Common Entrance, and preparing students for Oxbridge. I am aided by a detailed understanding of UK independent schools as well as experience preparing for the American education system at ISEE and SSAT level in particular. I have delivered private tuition to children between 5 and 20 years. I find tutoring immensely rewarding and particularly enjoy the focused nature of assisting an individual with their academic goals. ...
I was born and raised in the United Kingdom and won an academic scholarship to Sherborne School at the age of 13. When I was 16 years old my family relocated to the United States, so I completed my secondary education at a competitive high school in the Houston area. After quickly adjusting to the American system, I achieved excellent results in my AP exams and SAT tests and received a place in the prestigious Plan II Honours program at the University of Texas at Austin. I graduated a year early with high honours, a second major in History, and an undergraduate dissertation that was awarded special honours. I have years of experience tutoring for the SAT and ACT exams and experience teaching the American public school curriculum in the humanities. I specialize in preparing international students wishing to attend university in the United States. ...