The Digital SAT (DSAT) introduces new changes and improvements to the traditional SAT. These changes aren’t superficial. Not only will students have to get used to taking the test online, but they will have to adapt to its different format and learn how to take advantage of its new features, like adaptive testing.

Because of this, an age-old question arises again: Should you take the SAT or the ACT? Except now, you are choosing between the DSAT and the ACT. There are now additional pros and cons to each test that you should consider before determining which one is right for you.

Learn more about the DSAT and ACT below, how they compare, and which one you should take.

Digital SAT Overview

U.S. students will have access to the Digital SAT starting on its March 2024 test date (it’s been available to international students since 2023). The DSAT retains the core purpose of the SAT: to measure a high school student’s readiness for college and to provide college admissions a standardized data point in which to compare all applicants. It will also maintain the 1600 point scale of the traditional SAT, and questions will also be styled similarly, in that they will be mostly multiple choice with some fill-in-the blank for the Math section.

There are also significant differences between the DSAT and traditional SAT. While the traditional SAT had four sections, the DSAT will only have two. Reading and Writing will be grouped into one section, and Math will be the other section. There is a 10 minute break between sections. Each section (Reading/Writing, and Math) will be divided into two modules, which will lend to the test’s new feature of adaptive testing. The first module (or the first half of a section) will have a set of questions for the students to answer. The students’ performance in the first module will determine the questions asked in the second module of each section. The adaptive nature of the Digital SAT makes the tests shorter, adapts the test to the students specific needs, and makes for more secure testing.

Additionally, instead of the usual 3 hours of testing, students taking the Digital SAT should expect 2 hours of testing. Scores will be delivered faster – in a matter of days rather than weeks – and students will also receive career suggestions based on their score reports.

Students taking the Digital SAT will have to also get used to the built-in tools it offers on its interface. There is a built-in calculator, as well as annotation tools for Reading and Writing.

One common misconception is that because the DSAT is online, students are able to take it at home. This is NOT the case – the DSAT can be taken on a personal tablet or computer (if you don’t have one, it will be provided for you), but students will still sit at a testing center to take the test.

To learn more about the Digital SAT, check out our article dedicated to tell you what to expect here.

ACT Overview

The ACT shares the same purpose as the SAT and DSAT – to measure college readiness and to help college admissions make decisions. There are four sections in the ACT: English, Reading, Math, and Science. The Science section is completely unique to the ACT. The ACT takes three hours and is scored out of 36.

Comparing Both Tests


  1. Most colleges will accept both the SAT and the ACT and do not have a preference on which exam you submit.
  2. The registration cost for both tests is comparable. The SAT costs $60, while the ACT costs $66 without Writing. If you want to change the details of your test day registration, they have similar change fees for around $25. Both tests offer fee waivers if paying for the test is an issue for you.
  3. Both tests allow the use of a calculator on the Math section.
  4. Both tests cover similar passage topics in their Reading sections (ie. historical and scientific excerpts)


Test Structure And Sections

The DSAT has two sections: Reading and Writing and Math. Meanwhile, the ACT has four sections, which are English, Math (calculator allowed), Reading, and Science. There is also an optional Writing (essay) section for the ACT. 

Because the DSAT was shortened, there is a big difference between the number of questions and time allowed for each section between tests. Here is the breakdown:

DSAT Section Breakdowns

ComponentTime Allotted (minutes)Number Of Questions/Tasks
Reading and Writing64 (two 32-minute modules)54
Math70 (two 35-minute modules)44

ACT Section Breakdowns

ComponentTime Allotted (minutes)Number Of Questions/Tasks

*if you take the ACT with the optional writing section, the total time the test will take you is 215 minutes (the Writing section takes 40 minutes).

Adaptive Testing

Because of the DSAT’s online nature, it can take advantage of adaptive testing. This allows the test to tailor itself to a student while the student is taking the test. The ACT is still pencil-and-paper, so it is impossible to implement this feature (for now).

Math Reference Sheet

The DSAT provides students a brief reference sheet for the Math sections, while the ACT does not. The DSAT reference sheet includes helpful formulas and information, like the equations for area, the Pythagorean Theorem, and volumes of different shapes.

Multiple Choice

The DSAT will ask mostly multiple choice questions, but there are a few fill-in-the-blank questions at the very end of the Math section. The ACT will be all multiple choice. Additionally, the ACT multiple choice questions have 5 answer options, while the DSAT only has 4 options.

Essay Portion

The SAT phased out the Writing section in June 2021, and the DSAT will not be bringing this back. The ACT still offers an optional essay portion, where students will write an essay in response to a prompt that describes a key issue. The ACT essay portion costs more to take – an extra $25 – and many schools do not require you to take it. 


The DSAT is scored out of 1600, while the ACT is scored out of 36. Both tests, though, will provide percentile rankings.

Which One Should You Take?

Whether you should take the DSAT or ACT is completely up to personal circumstances and preferences. Each has its pros and cons, and students should reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses to match which test better suits them.

This being said, the DSAT’s new format and features offers a lot of advantages that, I believe, would tip the scale in their favor for most students. In the end, I recommend all students to take both a DSAT and ACT practice test and see which one they prefer and which one they score higher on.

Take The DSAT If:

  • You prefer shorter tests. The DSAT is 40 minutes shorter than the ACT. This is not only more convenient (taking the test won’t take up your entire day), but also helps endurance-wise.
  • You want to spend more time on each question. Based on the time allotted and number of questions per section on each test, the SAT will provide 68% more time per question than the ACT. If you struggle with time management, or simply want to take the test at a slower pace, this is a better test for you.
  • You like the digital format.
  • You want to receive college and career recommendations based on your scores.
  • You find the insights you can gain from digital test-taking helpful while studying. Taking DSAT practice tests offers the opportunity for in-depth analysis on your performance. This can be crucial to effectively improving and studying for the test, as you can automatically receive reports on types of questions you missed and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Take The ACT If:

  • You are good with time management. The ACT is a fast-paced test, with a lot of questions being asked in a short amount of time.
  • You want to take a pencil-and-paper test. The DSAT will completely replace the traditional SAT, so students will not have the option to take a pencil-and-paper SAT. If you like the traditional way, stick with the ACT.
  • Science is your strong suit. This is the strong distinguishing factor of the ACT. Some students shine in the Science section, and their strong performance can really boost their score.

ACT & Digital SAT Test Dates

Another factor to consider when deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT are the test dates they are offered. Sometimes, one will be more convenient than the other. If you plan ahead, however, you should have enough time to tweak your schedule so it can accommodate the test that fits you best.

ACT Test Dates – 2024SAT Test Dates – 2024
April 13March 9
June 8May 4
July 13June 1

Prepare For The DSAT And ACT With SoFlo

Have you decided whether you’ll take the DSAT or ACT? SoFlo can help you with your decision process, or if you already know, can help you prepare for either! We offer both SAT and ACT tutoring services. All of our tutors attend top universities around the nation and scored in the 99th percentile on their SAT and ACT. They will work one-on-one on you to identify and improve your weak area, increase your chances of getting your target score, and help you attend your dream college. Our tutors schedule to sessions to your availability and our costs start at $60/hour. Check out our tutoring services to book a session!

About The Author

Andie Pinga is an expert SoFlo tutor and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Economics and a minor in Anthropology. She scored a 35 on her ACT and enjoys rock climbing and playing the guitar.

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