How to compare ACT and SAT scores
There are many reasons why you might need to compare ACT and SAT scores. Maybe you have taken a practice test for each and now you need to decide where to focus your preparation. Or maybe you have taken both tests and need to decide which test to send to colleges.
Fortunately, comparing ACT and SAT scores has been made fairly easy. Concordance tables are used to translate scores from one scale to another. Concordance tables are available on the College Board web site at https://blog.collegeboard.org/2018-sat-act-concordance-help-compare-scores . The ACT web site link is http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/scores/act-sat-concordance.html .
The first step is to compare the overall scores, using the “ACT composite to SAT Total” tables A1/A2. Then you compare the math scores using the “ACT Mathematics to SAT Math” tables B1/B2. Lastly, you compare the verbal scores using the “ACT English + Reading to SAT Evidence Based Reading and Writing” tables C1/C2.
Below is an example for one of my students:
Math 580 Math = 26 (610 SAT equivalent)
Verbal 490 English+Reading = 23+21 = 44 (560 SAT equivalent)
Overall 1070 Composite = 22 (1110 SAT equivalent)
My first step is to compare overall results. For that, I use Table A2 to convert the 22 composite to the SAT 1110 equivalent. This tells me that overall, the ACT score is 40 points above the SAT.
Next, I want to explore why. I use Table B2 to convert the math ACT of 26 to an SAT equivalent of 610, which tells me that the ACT math is 30 points higher.
Next I add the ACT english and reading scores together to get a sum of 44. Then I use Table C2 to convert the 44 to a SAT verbal equivalent of 560, which tells me that the ACT verbal is 70 points higher.
Now you might be scratching your head because if the math is 30 points higher and the verbal is 70 points higher, then the ACT overall score should be about 100 points higher than the SAT overall. The reason that this is not the case is that the student only scored 17 on the ACT science, and this caused his overall ACT composite score to drop. ACT science has no SAT equivalent and so it was not shown in the math or verbal comparisons. But ACT science is 25% of the overall ACT composite score.
If this were a student about to send scores to colleges, it would be a difficult decision to make. If you have a complicated decision to make about which scores to send, you should consult your high school guidance counselor or college advisor. But this happens to be a student who just completed practice tests. Our plan is to focus our attention on ACT science to determine whether that can improve significantly. If so, then we will continue preparing for the ACT because the verbal scores are so much better.
Notice that I leave the SAT numbers alone and translate the ACT numbers to SAT equivalents. This is because my clients are in the northeast and they are more familiar with the SAT scale. If you are in the mid-west you could leave the ACT numbers alone and translate the SAT numbers to ACT equivalents. If you take that approach, note that you will not be able to translate ACT science to an SAT equivalent.