The SAT and ACT test similar information, but they are not the same. The SAT contains three graded sections: reading, math, and writing. The ACT has four graded sections: English, math, reading, and science. While many of the questions types are similar, the tests are not the same, so comparing scores is a little bit like comparing apples and oranges.
Each of the three SAT sections is graded on a scale of 200 to 800. The three scores are not averaged to obtain a total score; although, students and colleges often add scores together giving a total of 1600 when adding math and reading and a total of 2400 when all sections are totaled. The average score per section is right around 500.
The ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. Each of the four sections is scored on the 1 to 36 scale then all four scores are averaged to determine a student's composite score. Consider a student who earns the following results:English 23Math 36Reading 22Science 15This student's ACT composite score is 24. Averaging helps the 15 in science, but in doing so reduces the perfect score in math. The average score on the ACT is 21.
Determining Equivalent Scores
Because the SAT and the ACT test different material and use different scoring systems, any attempt to compare scores must be seen as an imprecise evaluation. The best way to determine equivalent scores is by evaluating how many students earn below a particular score, in other words, comparing percentiles So if half the students earn below a 21 on the ACT and below a 500 per section on the SAT, those scores are seen as similar.