One of the first thoughts you might have after getting back your ACT or SAT score 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 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 also look at whether certain colleges go easier on 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 scores into SAT scores. We've even included both new and old SAT conversions.
Just enter your ACT score on the left to 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 extremely helpful for figuring out which test you're better at. It’s smartest to focus your efforts on just the SAT or 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 translates so you can better understand your performance as well as your chances of admission at various colleges.
For example, by taking a practice test for both the SAT and ACT, you can 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'll know to study for and take that test instead.
As we explore below, ACT-SAT conversion doesn't always line up exactly at schools. Understanding what converting is and why it is not always even at certain schools can help you maximize your admission chances.
Finally, be aware that converting composite scores won't give you the most accurate data. As a result, always convert your section scores, too.
SAT-ACT Conversion Tables
The most accurate SAT-ACT concordance tables come directly from the makers of the SAT and ACT (the College Board and ACT, Inc., respectively). These are the only official conversion charts you can use to translate your ACT score into a new or old SAT score (and vice versa).
Table 1: New SAT-ACT Conversion Table
|New SAT||ACT||New SAT||ACT||New SAT||ACT|
Source: The College Board
Note that this conversion chart comes from the College Board only. ACT, Inc., has commented that this table has not yet been verified by them, and that the two organizations must collaborate to create a more accurate conversion table.
In my opinion, this table is likely to be pretty close in accuracy, so it's OK to use it for your planning purposes for now.
Table 2: Old SAT-ACT Conversion Table
For those of you who want to compare an ACT score with the old SAT, which was scored on a scale of 600-2400, you can use the table below. All estimates are provided by ACT, Inc.
|ACT Composite Score||Estimated SAT Composite||Estimated SAT Composite Range|
Source: ACT, Inc.
This table can be used 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 used above. In fact, ACT, Inc., 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; however, you'll probably find Table 2 more convenient.
Are You Translating an ACT Score? Use Both Tables
If you are translating an ACT score to an SAT score, it might be useful to get both an estimated new SAT score and an estimated old SAT score. (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 new SAT, and Table 2 if you took the old SAT.)
To compare both conversion methods, let's look at an example. Say you have an ACT composite of 30 and want to know what your score would have been on the new and old SAT.
According to Table 1, an ACT score of 30 converts into an SAT score of 1390-1410—we'll say 1400 as an estimate. Using Table 2, we see that 30 on the ACT translates to an SAT score of 1980-2010, or around 2000.
Our final conversions, then, are as follows:
Table 1 (New 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 on different college websites, you might find that many of them still use old SAT data. If colleges post score ranges based on the old 2400 scale, you'll need to know how your total ACT score translates to a total old SAT score to get a clearer sense of how competitive admission is.
That said, even before the SAT switched to the redesigned version in 2016, many colleges posted a 1600 SAT composite score anyway using the sum of the Reading and Math section scores. In that case, having a translation to the new SAT, out of 1600, could be useful, too.
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 new 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?
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 the official SAT-ACT conversions.
Before we jump into this idea, though, what is the "middle 50 percent"? For a school, this phrase refers to the SAT/ACT score ranges for the middle 50 percent (or 25th to 75th percentile scores) of admitted students. For example, if a school has an ACT middle 50 percent range of 24 to 28, this means that 25% of admits had 24 or lower, 50% had between 24 and 28, and 25% had 28 or higher on the ACT.
Schools report this data since it's a clear way to present the average test score ranges of admitted students. Reporting the full range of scores would be much less helpful as schools might have an admit or two with an extremely low test score, or a few admits with perfect scores. In other words, telling potential applicants that admitted students usually get ACT scores between 16 and 36 is not particularly helpful!
So do these ranges for the ACT and SAT match up according to the conversions above? The truth is, at many colleges, the SAT and ACT middle 50 percent ranges don’t match up exactly. Thus, for some schools, you'd have to do slightly better on one test to be a competitive applicant.
As a rough rule of thumb, you'll need a slightly higher SAT score to be competitive for East Coast schools and a slightly higher ACT score to be competitive for West Coast schools. This discrepancy is due to the fact that 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 in order for you to stand out.
However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. We'll go over a few examples and exceptions below. You can use this information as a guide when looking up the schools you're applying to.
Notice as we go through these examples just 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 you'll see, the differences are quite small in most cases, but they can help you aim for the most competitive target score possible.
We'll start with a prominent East Coast school. NYU's middle 50 percent ranges are as follows:
- ACT: 28-32
- SAT: 1320-1500
Using Table 1 to compare the scores, we see that ACT composite scores of 28-32 match up to SAT composite scores of 1310-1480. NYU’s actual SAT range is slightly higher than that, which means you'd need a comparatively higher SAT score to be within NYU’s 50 percent range.
For a highly competitive East Coast example, let’s look at Princeton. This school has the following SAT and ACT middle 50 percent ranges:
- ACT: 32-35
- SAT: 1470-1590
According to Table 1, these SAT scores match with an ACT score range of 32-35, which is the same as Princeton's actual ACT score range. At Princeton, then, there is not a slight ACT score advantage like there is at NYU.
Being an East Coast school does not always mean that the SAT is more competitive; sometimes, it means the opposite! Here are Penn State’s middle 50 percent ranges:
- ACT: 27-31
- SAT: 1230-1410
Table 1 shows that these ACT scores convert to an SAT range of 1280-1440. However, this is the opposite of NYU. In this case, you'd need to score slightly higher on the ACT than you would on the SAT to be in Penn State's middle 50 percent.
University of Washington
Now for a West Coast example. Here are the the University of Washington’s score ranges:
- ACT: 26-32
- SAT: 1210-1420
According to Table 1, UW's SAT range would match up with 25-31 ACT composite. However, its actual ACT range is slightly higher at 26-32.
This means you could get a comparatively lower SAT score of 1210 and be within range at UW. But if you had the matching ACT score of 25, you'd be a little less competitive.
University of Southern California
Another West Coast example is USC. Here are USC's middle 50 percent ranges for the SAT and ACT:
- ACT: 30-33
- SAT: 1360-1540
By converting these ACT scores into SAT scores using Table 1, we get an SAT score range of 1390-1510. As we suspected, this suggests that your ACT score needs to be a little higher than your SAT score does to be competitive at USC.
How To Maximize Your Converted ACT/SAT Score
So what can we take from all of this? There are definitely some slight but noticeable differences in certain colleges’ SAT and ACT middle 50 percent ranges compared with the expected conversions. However, there are plenty of exceptions as well.
Here's the thing: even in schools that seem to go slightly easier on one test, the differences are nominal. This means that it doesn't make sense to base your testing strategy entirely on whether a school appears to go easier on ACT or SAT scores. Instead, 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 by more than 20 to 50 SAT points or 1 to 2 ACT composite points. These are minor score differences you can easily overcome with smart studying, especially if you're taking the test better suited to your strengths.
For example, say you're a better SAT taker, but you notice that some Ivy League schools 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 1450 and 1550 on the SAT, you'd decrease your chance of getting in.
In the end, there is no substitute for smart studying.
But it's 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. 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. And maximizing your ACT or SAT score is by far 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 the 11 key differences between the two tests to help you decide which one to take.
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.