David Recine

What is harder, the SAT or the Praxis?

harder SAT Praxis

The Praxis Core is often compared to the SAT. Both Praxis Core and SAT serve as a review of middle and high school academic knowledge. But which is harder? Today, we’ll compare the math, reading, and writing parts of these two exams.

What is harder, SAT Math or Praxis Math?

First, you should know that the SAT Math section and the Praxis Core Math test have a large overlap of content. On both tests, you’ll find multiple choice and numeric entry questions involving middle school and high school math concepts such algebra, geometry, statistics, linear equations, percentages, ratios, inequalities, and so on. You may even see some math problems that are almost exactly the same on both tests.

While the content between the exams is similar, the actual problem solving required is easier on the Praxis Core Math test, compared to SAT Math. For one thing, Praxis Core Math problems are much more likely to focus on basic math content knowledge rather than complicated problem-solving operations. It’s much more common, for instance, for a Praxis Core question about statistics to hinge on knowledge of the meaning of a statistics term, such as mean or median. It’s less common for a Core Math question to require the actual calculation of a mean or median. Conversely, the SAT Math section will have a lot more statistical problems that require calculations, and only a few questions that rely solely on the definition of a statistical term.

This relative easiness of the Praxis Core applies to all other content as well. Praxis Core Math problems involving charts, tables, and graphics are more likely to simply test one’s ability to correctly read an infographic. SAT Math is more likely to prompt test-takers to do a series of math calculations based on an infographic. And Core Math has many questions that test knowledge of algebra terms and rules, while algebra on the SAT nearly always requires test-takers to solve for at least one variable. Moreover, Praxis Core Math allows for calculator use throughout the test, but SAT Math has one section with a calculator and one where calculator use is prohibited.

SAT Reading vs. Praxis Core Reading: Which is harder?

Here again, the Praxis Core covers similar content to the SAT. For Praxis Core Reading vs. SAT Reading, however, it’s less clear exactly which one is harder.

The passages themselves are at almost identical difficulty levels. However, test-takers are likely to find the SAT Reading passages a little harder. SAT Reading vocabulary is slightly more complex than vocabulary from a Praxis Core Reading passage. And SAT passages are much longer than the ones on the Praxis Core. On the other hand, the Praxis Core includes questions that analyze the strengths and weaknesses of an author’s argument. This difficult Praxis Core Reading question type is most commonly seen on other graduate exams like the GRE and GMAT, and won’t be found on the SAT Reading test.

Is Writing harder for the Praxis Core or the SAT?

The multiple choice portions of Praxis Core Writing and SAT Writing are pretty similar. On both exams, you’ll make revisions to texts based on the rules of grammar, style, and structure for academic writing. Again, the SAT has longer texts than the Praxis Core. But this can be a double-edged sword. Longer texts provide more context for revision decisions, while shorter texts can be easier to focus on.

The essays on these two exams, however, are very different. For one thing, Praxis Core Writing has two separate essays, both of which must be completed, while the SAT Essay is just a single writing prompt. And significantly, essays are a mandatory part of the Praxis Core Writing test, while the SAT Essay is optional.

The essay formats for each exam differ as well. The Praxis gives you one hour to do two shorter essays, and the SAT gives you 50 minutes to do one long essay. And the Praxis essays focus on stating and defending a personal opinion — without sources in the first essay, and then with sources in the second. The SAT, on the other hand, involves in-depth analysis of one written opinion source, but no statement of personal opinion.

Which is harder? That really depends a lot on your own skillsets. The SAT may be harder if you find argument analysis essays more challenging or have trouble writing longer pieces. The Praxis may be harder if you find it especially difficult to give and defend a personal opinion, or synthesize multiple sources into your own thesis statement.


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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