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ACT vs SAT: score conversion

So, in case you didn’t know, the SAT changed its format in March 2016, and the scores for this redesigned test were released on May 9th. The ACT was not happy about this, and as yet hasn’t made their own concordance table to compare the tests. What most people want to know is how to do an ACT to SAT score conversion.

What you probably care about is whether your old scores are equivalent to your new ones, whether a 2000 on the old SAT is better than a 1400 on the new SAT, how you can do an SAT to ACT conversion or an ACT to SAT conversion, and how you even begin to find all this information.

Once all the scores were calculated, the SAT published its concordance tables – showing how scores on all 3 tests compare with each other. They do this by using what they call an ‘equipercentile’ method. This means that if a student in the 50th percentile scores a 1500 on the old SAT, a 1000 on the new SAT and a 21 on the ACT, then these scores are considered equivalent. There are a bunch of potential problems with doing this (mostly because the tests are methodologically different), and the ACT is very unhappy about it, and has said that the new concordance tables should not be used to compare with the ACT… but they exist, so this is probably what people are going to use!

What’s important about this is what it means for you. Because the tables are constructed using an equipercentile method, most students will find that their SAT to ACT or ACT to SAT score conversion gives them about the same score. Don’t be surprised – if the tables are constructed on the averages for students, then most students will fit that data.


How do I compare ACT to SAT/SAT to ACT scores?


Just a note that this information applies as of May 2016 – things may change.


There are two ways you can do an ACT to SAT score conversion. You can download the College Board’s app for doing this, or you can use their pdf document.

I prefer the document, since it does give you more information. Just make sure you’re using it right. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Tables 1-6 are for taking new SAT scores and seeing what they would be on the old SAT. Tables 1 and 2 compare the whole test, and the rest compare by section.
  • Table 7 and 8 are for taking new SAT scores and comparing them to the ACT. Unfortunately, it doesn’t compare the new SAT essay to the new ACT essay, only the pre September 2015 one. This is because the new ACT essay is so unpredictable to score. Chaos! I put this table below because it’s the one that most people want to see.
  • Tables 9-14 are for taking old SAT scores and comparing them to new SAT scores. Don’t ask me why you can’t just use the tables 1-6 backwards, but the College Board says you can’t.


Here’s the table to compare SAT and ACT scores:

comparison chart for SAT and ACT scores


I took both tests to try them out, which one should I choose now?

If you score much better on one test than the other then your decision is easy. I would define ‘much better’ if your ACT to SAT score conversion comes out with more than 3 points higher on the ACT than your converted SAT score, or if your SAT score is more than 80 points higher than your converted ACT score after the ACT to SAT score conversion. If, like most students, the difference is not that large, then you really need to consider which test you prefer, or which you’d find easier to study for. I strongly suggest you read this before choosing.

A note to parents: you might think that now the SAT has returned to the 200-1600 scale, you can compare your SAT scores to your kids’. Unfortunately, you can’t due to the re-centering that happened in the mid 90s, which shifted all the scores slightly.

I hope that all makes sense for you!