The official IELTS by IDP app is here! Download it today.


SAT versus ACT versus IELTS - do you know which test you should be taking? If you are applying to your dream university in an English-speaking country, qualifying with the right test is critical to getting your application accepted. 

There are three types of standardised tests that prospective students must pass to study in various English-speaking countries. 

You might have heard of the SAT, ACT and IELTS. While they all measure the English proficiency of individuals, these three tests are quite different, especially where they are accepted. 

Whether you are looking to study in the UK or the United States, proving your English language proficiency is a must to enter your dream university. 

In this article, we will take you through the three tests, what you need to know about them and the key differences that you must understand.

What is the SAT, ACT or IELTS test?


IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. It comes in two versions, the Academic and General Training tests.  

The IELTS Academic test is meant for students looking to apply to a university in an English–speaking country. The test can be taken in a paper-and-pen format, through the more modern computer-delivered format, or online.  

The General Training version is intended for non-academic purposes such as immigration, for people looking to live and work in the country. 


The SAT or Scholastic Aptitude Test is an entrance test used by colleges and universities in the United States to judge a student’s English proficiency. 

In addition to English, students are also tested on their math skills. 


The ACT or American College Testing is another college entrance test for undergraduate programs in the United States. 

It’s important to note that the ACT also has a dedicated section for science plus a math section, which includes trigonometry questions. 

Still wondering which test is for you?  

In this next section, we break down the differences between the SAT, ACT and IELTS tests. 

what is ielts

SAT, ACT or IELTS: 4 things you must know

1. IELTS is accepted globally 

The key difference between IELTS and the other two test systems is the wide range of countries you can use your test results. 

IELTS is accepted in the majority of English-speaking countries, which includes: 

  • Australia 

  • Canada 

  • New Zealand 

  • the UK 

  • Ireland 

  • the United States 

Because of this, the IELTS test gives students the broadest range of opportunities to select from.  

2. ACT and SAT are commonly accepted in the United States 

The ACT and SAT tests are often taken by students looking to study in the United States and for specific programs as well, such as biology or chemistry. 

SAT and ACT are full aptitude tests that go beyond just the English language as they cover math, and in the case of ACT, science. 

For highly competitive colleges in the United States, SAT or ACT might be necessary. It’s important to look through the admissions of your American university or course to determine if taking the SAT or ACT is compulsory. 

3. Converting SAT to ACT is possible 

Because SAT and ACT are entrance tests to measure college readiness, they are similar enough, but with some differences in that students do score differently on each test. 

While many students do take both the SAT and ACT, it entails additional costs and time needed to prepare and sit for the tests. 

If you embark on that, it is important to understand which score to use to maximise your chances of getting into your dream course. 

For example, if you take both the SAT and ACT, and it turns out your ACT score, after conversion, is higher than your SAT, then it makes sense to submit only your ACT score. 

You can use an online tool to convert your scores. Do note that you’ll need to check in with the institution you’re applying for, as not all colleges and universities accept score conversions. 

4. ACT and SAT can have different validity periods 

While there isn’t any official expiration date for both the ACT and SAT scores, many universities have a validity period for your scores. 

Most colleges and universities today require you to retake your test after 5 or more years. 

It is important to check through the admissions criteria of each institution and course to see the validity period for your ACT and SAT scores. 

Meanwhile, your IELTS test is valid for 2 years without exception. 

English test

Pursue your study abroad adventure with IELTS through IDP today

Of all the tests available, IELTS is the one test that is accepted across a multitude of countries, including the United States. 

In addition, it is simply a focused test based entirely on your English proficiency. There is no need to prepare for any math or science test. 

If you’re ready, we can take you through. 

At IDP, students and professionals like you can take the first step towards their dreams by sitting for the IELTS test.  

Learn how we can help you effectively prepare to score and why IDP is the best choice for passing your IELTS test. 

Book your IELTS test with IDP today.