Should I take the ACT or SAT?

Every student will encounter a college placement test before at one point during his or her high school career. The choice is between the ACT and SAT. Some students score substantially higher on the SAT, while others fare a lot better on the ACT. This is why it is highly recommended that students understand the differences between the format of the two tests.

What are the differences between the two?

  • Questions in ACT tend to be more straightforward.

  • There is a stronger emphasis on vocabulary in SAT.

  • The writing test is optional in ACT, but something that is required by many colleges.

  • SAT does not have a Science section, but the ACT does.

  • Advanced math concepts are added to the ACT test including Trigonometry.

  • Content areas in SAT are broken up into 10 sections, but are delivered in four multiple choice sections on the ACT.

Changes to the SAT

Are you leaning towards SAT? Know that major changes in SAT will be released come spring 2016. According to College Board President and CEO David Coleman, the test is changing because it has become “far too disconnected from the work of our high schools. They’re too stressful for students, too filled with mystery and “tricks” to raise scores and aren’t necessarily creating more college-ready students”.

The new SAT standardized test will now have four sections – Math, Evidence-based Reading, Writing, and an optional essay. “We are not interested in students just picking an answer, but justifying their answers”, Coleman added. This shows that the SAT in 2016 would be more challenging than the previous one.

Changes to the ACT

It doesn’t mean that taking ACT will be an easier option because the test went through changes as well. The revisions to the ACT will be released earlier than that of the SAT. Come fall 2015, the exam will have an enhanced writing test. In the following Spring of 2016, constructed-response subject tests, online administration, new reporting categories, and new readiness scores and indicators will also be introduced to the ACT. Similar to the SAT, redesigning the ACT also aims to benefit students.

So which test should you take? Familiarize yourself with both formats and take one practice test from the ACT and SAT to see if there are major differences in the scores. Remember that it still comes down to which test suits your abilities. Regardless of changes to the exams, your preparation is what will determine whether you will be ready come the day of the test.

Extended Time On The ACT & SAT

Many students who have diagnosed disabilities are uniformed that there is a way to get Extended Time on the ACT or SAT test. As there are several steps involved in the process, it is pertinent to apply for extended time a few months before the actual test date. The Collegeboard and ACT have their own policies to get an approval for time extension. Any extra time on these tests  allows for a more comfortable testing period and reduced anxiety!

Check the following links for further information regarding the Policies from the ACT and Collegeboard SAT test:

ACT Time Extension

SAT Time Extension

Higher ACT Score=More Money!

I have worked with many students who are planning to take the ACT test for the third, fourth, or even fifth time.  Scores increases are not being seen and students are frustrated that ongoing practice is not giving results. The common response is “What’s the difference I know I won’t get any higher” or “I’ve practiced for so long and taken so many tests on my own that it’s just not worth it any more.”  It is hard for parents and students to see scores top off, but what many students tend to forget is many colleges look solely at high school GPA and their ACT Score to determine a scholarship. Even 1 point higher on the ACT could mean thousands of dollars more over 4 years!!

For example, take a look at Miami University of Ohio. If a student gets accepted to the university, he or she will be given a merit based scholarship of up to $8000/year for maintaining a 3.7 GPA in high school and an ACT score of 28. That is $32,000 over four years. However, for an ACT score of 29 (only 1 point higher) a student can receive a scholarship of up to $12,000/year. That is $48,000 over four years meaning $16,000 more for scoring just 1 point higher. That means fewer loans to pay off when graduating college or less money parents have to fund for students.

Now I know many students are thinking easier said than done. This is why it is important to seek help when you think prep on your own is not helping to increase the ACT score. Have another pair of eyes look at question types you are having issues with. This could mean talking to a  teacher, tutor, or even a test preparation program. Seeking a tutor or program may mean an upfront cost of $500-$2000, but think of the $14000 that could be saved by scoring just one point higher.  A higher ACT score also means a larger pool of colleges to apply to.

I know it may be stressful to prep for the ACT over and over again when you have finals or college essays to worry about. Nevertheless, remember all the money that will be saved in college and financial burden taken off of you when graduating.

I have posted a link to a few school across the United States that provide merit scholarships below.

Is it OK to Just Show Up?

It’s funny that this question comes up so often when I talk to a student prior to starting a class. This is when I have to bite my tongue and hold back from saying, “Why not, who really wants to put in time outside of class working?” I mean we all have a life, whether it’s playing sports, hanging out with friends, or tweeting the next big update. This was the same mindset I used to have when attending classes back in high school and college, too (minus the Twitter updating).

I believe it was freshman year of high school when a student in my tech class openly questioned the teacher saying homework was worth only 5% of his grade, so really all he had to do was perform well on tests. A completely true statement from a mathematical standpoint, but mind you, he ended up dropping the course a few weeks later.
Is this always the case? No, there is always going to be that one student who never does any work outside of class and aces the test. Frustration comes over everyone else who studied for days on end, and they wonder why their grade was not even close to an A.

This is when you have to think and analyze the work put in and remember what Gandhi said: “You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”

If you think about it what if you had not studied at all?  Who knows if you would have even passed the test. Maybe the result you were expecting didn’t show up, but look at the positives. Did you fail the test or really were there just a few small mistakes? This is the same mindset I tell students to come into when joining a class. Think of it as a full immersion. You really want to practice in and out of the class and use any resources provided. It’s interesting how the mind works when you consistently practice or repetitively perform an action. It starts to become second nature. Same thing with test prep. If you constantly work on problems, you’ll start noticing that not only speed improves, but also anxiety starts to diminish. When before you thought you were hurried on a certain section, now it takes 5 minutes less than the given time. Trends in questions and topics also start to click. A math problem may be stated differently, but you notice that it involves the same methodology of area or perimeter; a reading section has the same ideas to focus on like character relationships; in the English section you notice that the proper punctuation is not used to separate the independent and dependent clauses.
Timing is so important on the ACT or SAT that sometimes it comes down to those last few problems in each section. Were able to answer them without feeling hurried? This level of comfort truly comes after consistent practice.

What Colleges Allow Super Scoring?

To alleviate stress on test day, a student has the option to hold off sending an ACT or SAT score in to the college of their choice until the student is ready to do so. This is known as the “Score Choice” option. If a student walks into a test and feels sick, nervous, or hesitant for some reason then there is the option to avoid sending in the score to colleges. Another great thing that many schools offer for the SAT and ACT is the option to “super score.” This means schools extract the best section scores from all the tests a student has taken to create the highest average. For example, a student scores a “33” on the English Section, “34” on the Math Section, “25” on the Reading Section, and a “31” on the Science section of the April test. This same student takes another ACT in June and scores a “34” on the English Section, “31” on the Math Section, “34” on the Reading section, and “27” on the Science Section. The particular college will select the highest scores from each test so the “34” English Score, “34” Math Score, “34” Reading Score, and “31” Science section score to average together and form the composite score of “33”.

Many colleges have participated in super scoring for the SAT test, but now accepting the ACT scores as such, too. To see the list of schools that allow super scoring on the ACT or SAT test check the links below.

The SAT is Switching to Computerized Tests: What You Need to Know

As a parent of future college students, you will be glad to know that the SAT Suite of Assessments is constantly evolving to meet the needs of students and educators.

The College Board has announced that the SAT will be taken digitally beginning in 2023 for international students and beginning in 2024 for U.S.-based students. This change comes after the successful pilot of the digital SAT assessment in November 2021 and the positive feedback received from students.

The vast majority of students who participated in the digital pilot found the test to be less stressful than prior versions, and 100% of educators reported having positive experiences. These results suggested that moving to a digital format could potentially help reduce stress and improve outcomes for students taking standardized tests.

This new opportunity brings about a lot of changes in the test format, which will help your kids prepare and do better, and also help your stress for their future decrease!

What’s Changing

“The digital SAT will be easier to take, easier to give, and more relevant,” said Priscilla

Rodriguez, vice president of College Readiness Assessments at College Board.

The new digital SAT will take about two hours instead of the current three, it will feature shorter reading passages, and have one question associated with each passage.

Additionally, graphing calculators will now be allowed in the entire math section, and students and educators will receive test scores back faster, to help students make key college decisions in a timely manner.

Representatives for the College Board are optimistic that the changes will improve the test experience and make cheating more difficult. In fact, each student will see a unique version of the test. They will also benefit from receiving more relevant information, as well as being able to access digital score reports that provide information on two-year colleges, careers, and workforce training programs.

Furthermore, the College Board by transitioning to digital tests is committed to addressing inequities in access to technology. In fact, students will be able to use their own devices or school-issued devices to take the digital SAT.

How to prepare

The digital SAT is coming, and students need to be prepared. They can no longer rely on traditional methods of studying, such as attending a brick-and-mortar school or taking a generic course. They need to find a personalized solution that will help them succeed on the test.

The best way to prepare for the digital SAT is to find a course that can be personalized to your needs.


The Value in an ACT or SAT Prep Course

With thousands of companies throughout the United States touting themselves as the “BEST” Test Prep course with their own strategies and teaching methods, students and parents remain confused as to what course will really provide results. Promises & Guarantees are made from each course and students pile in to prep classes expecting…well…the unexpected.

The best plan of action before researching courses and asking around for recommendations is to consider taking a practice ACT or SAT test.  Many high school offer sign up dates to take a simulated exam, which students should take advantage of.  A test should be completed in one sitting and timed as if it was a real test being administered. This is a great way to gauge if a student has timing issues and what specific subject areas are of difficulty.  When grading a test look at question types in each section that were wrong and see if there is a trend. For example, in the English section you may notice sentence structure or punctuation questions are consistently wrong and in the Reading section the Inference questions may be the ones you are getting incorrect.

At this point, if a student is close to their goal it may be wise to see if the errors can be worked out by learning the content behind the incorrect questions. If you are far from your goal or cannot seem to find an answer to correct the small errors in each section, start seeking a tutor or program. When looking for a course consider what is worth your money. So many times students follow their friends and sign up for a static course. When I say a static course it means a class that teaches the same principles and strategies to a large group of students no matter if you enter a class with a score in the 90th percentile or 50th percentile. This may work for some students, but fails in many cases as students notice little or no improvement when leaving a course.   Each student coming in a class has different issues and learning approaches. If students are lectured on information already known which may be redundant, they tend to zone out and feel the class is a waste.  A student coming into a class is seeking a different approach to answer a question not the same method that was not working prior to showing up.

This is why it is important to look for courses that provide (a)Dynamic, Customized classes,  (b)Help as needed outside of the classroom, and (c) Smaller groups or One-on-One so teachers can focus on each student.

A student coming into a class with an ACT or SAT Math section score in the 99th percentile and Reading section score in the 60th percentile is looking for a course that is more focused on teaching methods to increase his or her Reading section score. This is why it is vital to find a Personalized Class that puts only a few students with similar strengths and weaknesses together in a class. When a teacher is able to focus on only one student or a few students, the teacher can adjust the  course lecture to focus on the needs of the student(s).  Homework provided would focus on the particular questions students need help with. Outside of class is when students are able to practice and show results. When questions do arise a student should not have to wait until the next class and be able to contact teachers immediately.

To spend hundreds of dollars or a couple thousand on a prep course for a parent is not always economically convenient. That is why it is vital for a course to be personalized to provide a higher ACT or SAT score converting to tens of thousands of dollars saved through scholarship money from colleges. This is why it is best to research courses and look for “Value” in classes that cater to a student’s needs. Value does not always mean the cheapest course, but the one that focuses on the students and addresses the areas a student is really having difficulties with.

Now take the FIRST STEP and complete a test as I have provided a link below for a FREE test!