Converting ACT Scores to SAT Scores

The ACT and SAT are very different, but you can make a rough conversion

The ACT and SAT test different things, so any score conversion isn't an exact science.
The ACT and SAT test different things, so any score conversion isn't an exact science. Ryan Balderas / E+ / Getty Images

With the table below, you can convert ACT reading and math scores into SAT reading and math scores. The SAT score numbers are from 2017 and represent data from the redesigned SAT that launched in 2016. The equivalencies were calculated simply by using each score's corresponding percentile. 

Realize that the definition of a good SAT score and good ACT score is going to depend on the colleges to which you are applying.

At some schools a 500 in math is perfectly adequate for admission, while at a highly selective university you'll ideally have a score of 700 or higher. 

Convert ACT to SAT

SAT ERW / ACT EnglishMathematics
SATACT%SATACT%
8003699+8003699+
7903699+7903599
7803699+7803599
77035997703499
76035997603398
75035997503297
74035987403297
73035987303196
72034977203095
71034967103094
70033957002994
69032946902992
68031926802891
67030916702889
66030896602788
65029876502786
64028856402784
63027826302682
62026796202681
61025776102578
60025736002576
59024705902473
58024675802470
57022645702367
56022605602365
55021575502261
54020535402158
53020495302054
52019465201949
51018425101845
50017395001840
49016354901737
48016324801734
47015284701732
46015254601629
45014224501625
44014194401622
43013164301620
42013144201517
41012124101514
40011104001512
3901183901510
380106380148
370105370147
360104360145
35093350134
34082340133
33081330132
32071320121
31071310111
30061300101
29051-29091-
28041-28081-
27041-27061-
26031-26041-
25021-25021-
24011-24011-
Will You Get In? Calculate your chances with this free tool from Cappex

To get some more granular data for the ACT, check out the national norms on the ACT website. For the SAT, visit the Understanding Your Scores page on the SAT website and click through to the latest percentile rankings for the exam.

Discussion of SAT and ACT Score Conversions

Students often want to know what their ACT scores mean when compared to the scores of the SAT (and vice-versa).

Realize that any conversion is just a crude approximation. The SAT has two components: Math and Evidence-Based Reading (plus an optional Writing section). The ACT has four components: English Language, Mathematics, Critical Reading, and Science (also with an optional Writing section).

Beginning in March of 2016, the content of the exams became a bit more similar as both exams now work to test what students have learned in school (the SAT used to try to measure the students aptitude, the students ability to learn rather than what the student had learned). Nevertheless, when we compare ACT scores to SAT scores, we are comparing two different things with different types of questions and a different amount of time allowed per question. Even a 36 on the ACT does not equal an 800 on the SAT. The tests are measuring different things, so a perfect score on one exam does not mean the same thing as a perfect score on the other.

If, however, we look at the percentage of students who score below a certain score, we can make an attempt at comparison. For example, on the SAT Math section, 49% of students scored a 520 or lower.

On the ACT Math section the 49% line falls at a score of 19. Thus, a 19 on the ACT math section is roughly comparable to a 520 on the SAT math section.

Again, these numbers don't measure the same thing, but they do allow us to compare the performance of one group of students to the other.

In short, the data in the table above should be taken for what it is worth. It is just a quick and crude way to see what SAT and ACT scores fall into similar percentiles.

A Final Word on Score Conversions

The table can give you a sense of the type of scores you're likely to need for top college. The country's most selective colleges tend to admit students who are ranked in the top 10% of their class. Ideally, those applicants also have test scores that are in the top 10% of all test-takers (if not higher). To be in the top 10% of test-takers, you'd want to have a 670 SAT Evidence-Based Reading or 30 ACT English, and you'd want a 680 SAT Math score or 28 ACT Math.

In general, SAT scores in the 700s and ACT scores in the 30s are going to be the most competitive at the country's top colleges and universities.