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Kristin Fracchia

TuesdACT: ACT vs. NEW SAT – How the English and Writing Sections Compare

If you’re confused about whether the ACT or the new Redesigned SAT is the better test for you, well, we are here to help you out! We’re doing a series comparing each of the subject sections on the ACT to the SAT, and this week we are tackling the ACT English section and the SAT Writing section. They have different names, but they are basically the same thing. In fact, you’ll probably be shocked at just HOW similar these two tests appear. The old SAT Writing section was very different, but the new SAT Writing looks almost exactly like the ACT English test.

Here are the highlights below, and check out the video for more!


Both the ACT English and SAT Writing sections have an almost identical structure

All of the ACT English and New SAT Writing questions are given within the context of passages. Basically, the idea is that you are editing a draft and fixing grammar errors and clarifying meaning as you go.


Both the ACT English and SAT Writing sections test both grammar errors AND rhetorical skills

The old SAT didn’t have many questions on ideas, organization and development; it mostly tested grammar. Now, there are many questions on how to effectively present ideas in writing, just like the ACT.


Passage difficulty on ACT English and SAT Writing

On the ACT, English passages are at a pretty easy reading level: 9th grade or even lower. On the new SAT, you’ll see more variation in passage difficulty: some easier passages and some more complex ones. You’ll also see some more complex and trickier questions.


Informational graphics

On the new SAT, Writing passages, and occasionally questions, may include tables, graphs, or figures. You might be asked to do things such as use a data table to correct a factual error in the passage or to replace a vague description with a more precise one. On the ACT English, it’s all about the text.


Number of questions and time limit

ACT: 75 questions; 45 minutes (about 36 seconds per question)

SAT: 44 questions; 35 minutes (about 48 seconds per question)


About Kristin Fracchia

Kristin makes sure Magoosh's blogs are chock-full of awesome, free resources for students preparing for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agonizing bliss of marathon running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.

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