Unlike apples and oranges, it is possible to compare the ACT and SAT – though it can be a little bit complicated.
One of the first thoughts you might have after getting your ACT or SAT score back is how well you would have done on the other test. Luckily, SAT to ACT conversion (and ACT to SAT conversion) is possible.
In this post, we'll provide conversion charts from the test makers themselves to help you with score conversions between both the new and old versions of the SAT and the ACT. We'll also learn if certain colleges go easier on either the SAT or ACT – and what you can do about it.
ACT to SAT Conversion Tool
We took the College Board's official concordance tables and made a tool for you to automatically convert your ACT to SAT scores. We've even included both new SAT and old SAT conversions.
Just enter your ACT on the LEFT, and get your SAT scores on the right:
SAT to ACT Conversion Tool
Want to go in the other direction? Here are two tools to go from New 1600 SAT to ACT, or from Old 2400 SAT to ACT.
New 1600 SAT to ACT Conversion
Old 2400 SAT to ACT Conversion
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Why Convert Between the SAT and ACT?
ACT to SAT conversion can be very helpful to figure out which test you're better at. It’s smartest to focus your efforts on just the SAT or the ACT to maximize your score, rather than trying to score well on both tests. But if you take just one test, it’s useful to know how your score would translate to better understand your performance and chances at certain colleges.
For example, if you take a practice test for each exam, you want to figure out which test you're naturally better at. If you score dramatically higher on one test vs the other (say, the equivalent of 2 ACT points), you might do better to study that test instead.
Furthermore, as we explore below, ACT-SAT conversion might not line up exactly at certain schools. Understanding what converting is and why it is not always even at certain schools can help you maximize your admission chances.
Also, converting the composite scores won't give you the most data. Instead, you'll also want to convert your section scores too.
Also, converting the composite scores won't give you the most data. Instead, you'll also want to convert your section scores too.
New SAT-ACT Conversion Tables
The most accurate concordance tables come directly from the makers of the test – College Board. These are the most up to date tables officially released.
|New SAT||ACT||New SAT||ACT||New SAT||ACT|
Via College Board.
Note that this conversion chart comes from the College Board only. The ACT has commented that this table has not yet been verified by the ACT, and that the two organizations need to collaborate to create a more accurate conversion table. In my opinion, this table is likely to be pretty close in accuracy, and you can use it for your planning purposes for now.
Table 2: Conversion Table for the "Old" SAT
For those of you who want to compare an ACT score with the "old" SAT, which was scored between 600 and 2400, you can use the table below.
|ACT Composite Score||Estimated SAT Composite||Estimated SAT Composite Range|
Via the ACT Website.
This table is appropriate to use if you have an old SAT score and want to compare it with the ACT. This table was originally developed to be a more simple comparison between the old SAT and the ACT, rather than the double-table method shown above. In fact, the ACT argued that this table was better than the double-table method, since it's easier to use and doesn't count the ACT English section twice. So if you have an old SAT score, you can use either this table or the double-table above to convert your score, but you'll probably find Table 2 to be more convenient.
This table may also continue to be relevant for a few years as colleges continue to use SAT score ranges based on the old 2400 SAT. (We won't have any data about average SAT scores at colleges based on the Redesigned SAT until the end of the 2016-17 college admissions cycle, so we will have to continue referencing the 2400 SAT for a while.)
Are You Translating an ACT Score? Use Both Tables
Since we are currently in a transition period between the old SAT and redesigned SAT, if you are translating an ACT score to an SAT score, it may be useful to get both an estimated Old SAT Score (out of 2400) and Redesigned SAT score (out of 1600). To compare both methods we can take an example.
(If you are translating the other way, from an SAT score to an ACT score, you can simply use the table that's appropriate for the type of score you have: Table 1 if you took the Redesigned SAT, and Table 2 if you took the Old SAT.)
Say you have an ACT composite of 30 and want to know what your score would have been on the SAT. Using Table 1, an ACT composite of 30 would convert to an SAT score of 1330-1350, with 1340 offered as a single score estimate. Using Table 2, the ACT composite score of 30 would translate to an SAT score of between 1980-2010, or 2000 as a single estimate.
So our final conversions are as follows:
Table 1 (Redesigned SAT)
Table 2 (Old SAT)
SAT Score Conversion
Why is it useful to have these two score conversions? If you're looking up admissions data at different college websites, you may find that many of them still have old SAT data. So if colleges are posting score ranges based on the old 2400 scale, you will need to know how your ACT composite translates to the old SAT composite to get a sense of how competitive it is.
That said, even before the SAT switched to the Redesigned version, many colleges just posted a 1600 SAT composite anyway: a combination of the Reading and Math sections. In that case, having a translation to the Redesigned SAT, out of 1600, could be useful too.
So to get the most out of your research, if you're translating an ACT score to an SAT score, make sure to find out what your Old SAT score and your Redesigned SAT score would have been.
Which is easier, the ACT or the SAT? Find out with our detailed, comprehensive guide to figuring out which test is better for you.
Is There an “Easier” Test at Certain Schools?
So now that we've learned about the SAT-ACT conversion tables made by the test makers themselves, you might think that if you look at admission statistics for various colleges, their SAT and ACT middle 50 percent ranges will match up to the official SAT-ACT conversions.
What are the middle 50 percent ranges? The middle 50 percent ranges are the score ranges for the middle 50 percent of their admitted students, or their 25th-75th percentile score ranges. So, for example, if a school has an ACT middle 50 percent range of 24 to 28, that means that 25% of their admits had a 24 and lower, 50% of their admits had between a 24 and a 28, and 25% of their admits had a 28 or higher on the ACT. Schools report these ranges since they are a clear way to show the average test score ranges that admitted students have. Reporting the full range of scores would be much less helpful, since schools might have an admit or two with a very low ACT score and a few admits with perfect ACT scores. Telling potential applicants that their admitted students have ACT scores between 16 and 36 is not very helpful!
In fact, at many colleges, the SAT and ACT middle 50 percent ranges don’t match up exactly.
This means for some schools, you would have to do slightly better on one test to be a competitive applicant. As a very rough rule of thumb, you need a slightly higher SAT score to stay competitive at East Coast schools and a slightly higher ACT score to be competitive at West Coast schools. This is because the ACT is still the most widely taken test on the West Coast, and the SAT is more popular on the East Coast. The more students who take the test, the higher your score has to be to stand out.
However, this is not a hard and fast rule. We will go over a few examples, and exceptions, below. Use this as a guide for looking up the schools you are applying to.
Notice as we go through these examples how small the differences tend to be. We are not showing that you can game the system by taking the “easier” test for a certain school. As we’ll see, the differences are quite small in most cases, but they can help you aim for the most competitive target score possible.
We will start with a prominent East Coast school. NYU's middle 50 percent ranges are as follows:
- ACT 28 to 32
- SAT 1900 to 2190
Using Table 2 to compare the scores (since this is data from the Old SAT), ACT composite scores of 28-32 would match up to SAT composite scores of 1880-2120. NYU’s SAT ranges are slightly higher than that, which means you need a comparatively higher SAT than ACT score to be within NYU’s 50 percent ranges.
For a very competitive East Coast example, let’s look at Princeton. They have an SAT Composite middle 50 percent range of 2120 to 2390. Using Table 2 to convert, those SAT scores would match with an ACT range of between 32 and 36. However, Princeton’s actual ACT range is between 31 and 35!
This means that if you have an ACT score of 31, you would be within Princeton’s middle 50 percent score ranges, but if you had the equivalent SAT score of 2060, your score would be lower than their ranges and put you at a disadvantage.
Being an East Coast school does not always mean the SAT is more competitive. To take an example, Penn State’s middle 50 percent ranges are 26-30 for ACT and 1750-2000 for SAT. Using Table 2 to convert, those ACT scores would convert to an SAT range of 1770-2000, which is almost exactly what Penn State's real SAT middle 50 percent ranges are. So for Penn State, there is not a slight ACT score advantage like there is at NYU and Princeton.
University of Washington
Now for a West Coast example. The University of Washington’s SAT range is 1570-2020, which would match up with about an 23-31 ACT Composite using Table 2. However, their actual ACT range is 25-31.
This means you could get a comparatively lower SAT score of 1570 and be within range at the University of Washington, but if you had the matching ACT score of 23, you would be slightly less competitive, even though the difference between 23 and 25 is fairly substantial.
University of Southern California
USC's middle 50 percent ranges for the SAT are 1920-2230, and for the ACT they are 29 to 33. If we converted those ACT ranges using Table 2, we would get an SAT score range of 1940-2180. This actually suggests your SAT score needs to be higher for USC! So USC doesn’t quite fit the West Coast stereotype of requiring higher ACT scores to be competitive.
How To Maximize Your Converted Score
So what can we take from all of this? There are definitely some slight but noticeable differences in some colleges’ SAT and ACT middle 50 percent ranges compared to the expected conversions, but plenty of exceptions as well.
Here's the thing: even in schools that seem to go slightly easier on one test, the differences are small. This means it doesn't make sense to base your testing strategy entirely on whether a school seems to go easier on ACT or SAT scores. It’s much smarter to focus on the test you can do better on to maximize your score.
In our test cases above, ACT and SAT ranges did not deviate from expected values more than 20 or 30 SAT points or 1 to 2 ACT composite points. These are score differences you can easily overcome with smart studying, especially if you are taking the test you are better suited to.
To take an example, say you are a better SAT-taker, but you notice that some Ivy League schools seem to go a bit easier on ACT scores. If you were to take the ACT and get a 30, when you were capable of scoring between 2200-2300 on the SAT, you would decrease your chances of getting in.
In the end, there is no substitute for smart studying.
But it is still useful to look up the middle 50 percent test score ranges for your target schools. You can even use the conversion charts like we did to see if the school “favors” one test or another slightly. Then, use this info to form your own target score. For example, if you’re applying to a school that goes a bit easier on the ACT, aim for an ACT score in the upper end of their middle 50 range to ensure that, even with ACT-SAT conversion, you are still well within their typical ranges.
Remember, the bottom line in college admissions is playing up your strengths. That means maximizing your ACT or SAT score is the best advantage you can give yourself on the standardized testing front.
Sure, we’ve argued that colleges don’t give a huge advantage to either the SAT or ACT, but is one test easier than the other? Find out whether the SAT or ACT is easier. Also, check out a complete list of the differences between the two tests.
Want to improve your SAT score by 240 points, or your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve both your SAT and ACT scores dramatically.Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Halle Edwards graduated from Stanford University with honors. In high school, she earned 99th percentile ACT scores as well as 99th percentile scores on SAT subject tests. She also took nine AP classes, earning a perfect score of 5 on seven AP tests. As a graduate of a large public high school who tackled the college admission process largely on her own, she is passionate about helping high school students from different backgrounds get the knowledge they need to be successful in the college admissions process.