ACT Reading vs. SAT Reading: Which Is Easier


ACT Reading vs. SAT Reading: Which Is Easier

Are you trying to decide ACT Reading vs. SAT Reading: Which Is Easier? In this article, we will discuss the differences between SAT Reading and ACT Reading to help you decide which section is easier for you. You might be surprised!

Main Differences between SAT and ACT Reading Sections

ACT Reading vs. SAT Reading: Which Is Easier

Whatever you might have heard from your friends, parents, or teachers – one test is not inherently more difficult than the other one. Your success on one test over the other depends on what skills you have. As you read through this article, keep your own strengths and weaknesses in mind.

#1. Breaking Down Long Passages

ACT Reading vs. SAT Reading: Which Is Easier

Almost all of the detail questions on the SAT include line numbers, while the ACT doesn’t usually provide line numbers in the questions. To find an answer to “little picture / find the detail” questions, you have to skim the whole passage.

Let’s look at an ACT example:


published by ACT, Inc

To answer this question, you would have to skim the entire passage to find mention of the three types of wood used for making stringed instruments and pick the one that is not mentioned. If you do not have good memory for small details, this can take time. If a similar type of question appeared on an SAT exam, it would be accompanied by a supporting excerpt.

Advice: Know Yourself! If you have good memory for small details and longer passages, you might have an advantage on the ACT. If picking information out of a passage is your strength, you might do better on the SAT.

#2. Timing

ACT Reading vs. SAT Reading: Which Is Easier

Mathematically, ACT asks more questions per minute than the SAT does; therefore, timing is a bigger challenge on the ACT. SAT Reading has 52 questions in 65 minutes (an average of 75 seconds per question) while the ACT has 40 questions in 35 minutes (an average of 52 seconds per question). A difference of 23 seconds per question may not seem like much, but those seconds can really add up, especially if you’re struggling to answer all the questions in a section before time runs out.

Advice: Keep your eyes on your watch! If pacing and quickly answering questions is a challenge for you, you may find the extra time allowed on the SAT reading section more manageable.

#3. Supporting Evidence Questions

ACT Reading vs. SAT Reading: Which Is Easier

Supporting evidence questions are a big part of SAT Reading but do not exist on ACT Reading. These questions relate to the questions that immediately precede them and ask you to identify specific lines or paragraphs (line numbers provided in the answer choices) that support, or provide evidence for, the answer to the previous question.

Let’s look at an SAT supporting evidence question example:


These questions may be challenging to some students because they require higher-level thinking and strong reasoning skills. If you don’t answer the first question correctly, you will most likely be looking for the wrong support.

On the other hand, line references in the second question show you that in the whole passage, the correct answer will be found somewhere within or near those lines. The two questions can be answered in combination by rephrasing the two questions to read something like this: “which choice provides the best evidence to why the narrator considers Great Expectations to be the best gift he has ever received.”

Advice: Consider Pros and Cons. If you struggle with interconnected questions, understanding implied meanings, or identifying supporting information, you might find the ACT Reading easier because it doesn’t include these types of questions.

Which Test is Right for You?

ACT Reading vs. SAT Reading: Which Is Easier

The only definitive way to decide which reading section will be your best fit is to take real practice tests. Score yourself and compare percentiles to determine your higher score.

In addition to highlighting your strengths, taking practice tests will identify your weaknesses. If you are struggling with timing, then the SAT might be a better fit for you. Are you having difficulty with critical reading evidence-based questions, then the ACT might be the way to go.

If you get similar scores, consider which test you like better. I know it’s a standardized test and there’s nothing to really like, but you will possibly find that you enjoy one more than the other and studying for the test that you enjoy more is usually more effective.

If you still can’t decide, think about the other sections. Maybe you’re slightly better at ACT Reading than the SAT Reading, but ACT Math or ACT Science is really hard for you. Having a lower score on those sections would cancel out the small advantage you might have from doing better on the ACT Reading section.

Next Steps

Now that we’ve discussed the pros and cons of ACT vs. SAT Reading, you might want a complete breakdown on which test ACT or SAT is easier overall.

Want to take practice tests? Here are the links to ACT tests and SAT tests.

Vocabulary is important for the ACT. Find out what words you must know.

Struggling with the essay? Check out this step-by-step essay guide.

Previous Post
Can STEM People Do Well on SAT/ACT Reading?
Next Post
How to Answer Small Picture Detail Questions on ACT Reading