Featured Post by Aaricka Washington, Top Coach – Elite Private Tutors
The debate between SAT and ACT testing. College students get the shivers when they remember those days of testing for three hours in a cold classroom. High school students get apprehensive. Parents cry out for help. It’s that big of a deal. I definitely know it was for me back in 2009 and 2010. And I don’t think there has ever been such a heated debate about two champions for the saving the human race since the Batman versus Superman argument.
Some past college graduates believe the ACT is easier. Then there are people that stand by the fact that the SAT is the better one to take for those who don’t want to take risks with the math portion. Still, there some people that believe it is wise to take both exams and send the highest scores to the college of their dreams. All of these options are risks, if one doesn’t have a definitive reason why they should take one exam over the other. Check below to see the top 10 reasons why you should prefer one exam to the other.
- There are stark differences in the structure of the two tests.
Let’s start by debunking a small myth. Even though the SAT and ACT exams have been known to be synonymous to admissions to the top colleges, not every college requires the test.
However, most of them do, so it is best to do your research as early as possible. The SAT is owned and published by the College Board, a non-profit organization well known for its college readiness resources for students. Last Spring, SAT decided to revamp their test, in several different ways. January 2016 was the last time the old SAT was given and March 2016 was the first month the new SAT was administered. The score range is now 400-1600 being the highest as well as the implementation of Sub Score and Cross-test Scores. The test is 5 minutes longer when you include the optional essay and the sections are now called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and the Optional Essay (separately scored). So, it’s still around 3 hours and 50 minutes. There used to be a 25% or (¼ for all those fraction lovers) guessing penalty on the test. Now, SAT is following ACT’s footsteps by not giving a guessing penalty at all anymore. We all know that technology rules the world, right? Well, now the SAT is offered in print or computer! This is clearly a sign of the times. For each portion, the test will be scored on a range of 200-800. There is a 65-minute Reading section, a 35-minute Writing and Language section, a 55-minute Math calculator section and a 25-minute Math no calculator section. The questions increase in difficulty as you move through the questions with the exception of the questions about the stories in the Reading portion.
On the other hand, the ACT is a standardized test that is based on what students have learned in high school and what they should expect in college. The test is owned by the non-profit organization of the same name and stands for American College Testing. The ACT has four sections: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science. Writing the essay is optional. Students are scored in a range from 1 – 36. Scores from each section are averaged after they are formulated. A perfect score is
According to the Study Points website, the SAT test tends to be more widespread among private schools and schools on the East and West coasts and ACT scores tend to be more prevalent in public schools and schools in the Midwest and South. Still, every four-year college in the U.S. accepts both exams.
Indiana University Admissions Specialist Amy Patrick believes that students should test multiple times as well as read through tips and practice questions through resources like Khan Academy. She said that she believes that students have a balance in academics and extracurricular activities. The admissions has a holistic review on college students. They look at essays, overall academics, test scores, extracurricular activities and more.
“Take advantage of free resources early and often,” Patrick said.
TIP #1: Do your research to determine what would be the best test to focus on.
- Convenience – One test may be required and offered for free at certain schools.
Briana Hunter is a senior at University of Houston, double majoring in Psychology and Biology. While part of the Gifted and Talented program starting as a freshman at Taylor High School, she was able to take SAT and ACT prep courses. However, it was required at her school to take the SAT. It was also free.
TIP #1: Check with your child’s high school to see what they require students to take and if there are free options for the test.
- How broad and strong is your mathematical ability?
Jarred Morgan, an organizational change consultant, not only makes sure that organizations around Houston are effective and successful, but also makes sure underserved students in the city are too. He has his hands full in tutoring middle school and high school students in Geometry, AP Chemistry and AP Physics with Math-A-Matics Tutoring LLC. Morgan believes that the SAT offers a student the opportunity to show more math skills than the ACT. “The SAT removes a crutch to handle math problems, Morgan said, “students cannot use a calculator on a portion of the test.” According to the Princeton Review, on the SAT Math portion, there is Algebra, Arithmetic, Probability, Data Analysis and Plane Geometry, Coordinate Geometry and Trigonometry. However, the ACT Math section does not test students on Arithmetic Probability and Data Analysis.
TIP #2: Morgan strongly suggests that students think about their mathematical strengths before deciding to take either test. Once they do, they will want to get tutoring in a specific weak area.
- ACT may be a good choice for people who are interested in the Science field.
According to the Princeton Review, there are 40 questions on the ACT about 7 different passages. There are passages about various different fields like earth science, astronomy, and chemistry. The ACT primarily tests students on their ability to synthesize information from charts, graphs and passages.
TIP #3: The ACT
- On the other hand, the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests may be the better choice…
Despite not logging on to collegeboard.org in over 8 years, I was able to still navigate myself around the site to find the “Compare Colleges” web page. On this page, you can compare up to 3 different colleges to see what they offer and require. It used to be my favorite part of the website. It still is. Right now, I am reviewing the prestigious Harvard College, my alma mater Indiana University and Texas’ own University of Texas at Austin. What I’ve noticed is that all three of these colleges have very different requirements. Harvard College requires not only the SAT or ACT, but also the SAT Subject Tests. I evaluated Rice University earlier; they require the SAT Subject Tests as well. Indiana University requires the SAT or ACT, but just recommends the SAT Subject Tests. Last but not least, the University of Texas at Austin only requires the SAT or ACT. There are a plethora of SAT Subject Tests to choose from; There are Math, Science, History and Languages tests you could take in order to show your specific skill in that area.
TIP #4: Think about the subjects that you are specifically skilled in if this is the route that you want to take.
- Consider the Moolah you’d be spending on testing:
I’m assuming that I’m not the only one who loves to save. If I could go back in time, I would have definitely saved money out of my mom’s pocket in regards to testing. I took the SAT twice and the ACT once – that’s not necessary! Consider early on what kind of test would be best for your child, and stick with it. To register for the ACT, it costs $39.50 for the writing section. With the writing section, the ACT costs $56.50. On the other hand, the SAT registration charges $43 and with the essay, $54.60. For the SAT Subject Tests, the registration fee is $26 for one test date, which a student could take one, two, or three Subject Tests. With each additional SAT Subject Test (with the exception of Language Tests with Listening) there is a $20 fee. With Language Tests with Listening, there is a $26 with every additional tests.
TIP #5: Keep in mind that you may need to buy a prep book for your child as well as tutoring services in order to ensure their success in testing.
- You may take both a SAT and ACT practice exams, and find out you did A LOT better on one exam than the other
Even though there are some people who say that it is better to take both exams and then send the best one off to your dream schools, I would argue that it’s even better to hone your knowledge and skills in one particular test, once you know which one is more geared towards you. Adam Powell agrees. As one of the many instructors at Test Masters, he strongly believes in students getting a feel for a test by taking free online sample practice ACT and SAT exams to see which one matches their style and skill. From there, Powell can help a student with that one exam and build on their limited knowledge that a student has when he sees a score report or does a diagnostic on a student. Then, they get down to practice. If they are strictly struggling in one concept, he teaches that concept and does practice questions with them until they master it. He says, “I really wish I had this back in high school,” Powell said.
According to Powell, he sees many students and families not take full advantage of all the test preparation resources available to them. Students will not take advantage of the test prep, will sign up to take a test and then send good scores first, without consulting with a test preparation tutor. “Personally I will come across students who haven’t seen a concept in school like geometry and pre-calculus in two or three years.” He said that students would often think that just because they have knowledge of the subject, that they would do great on the test. Not so. They very well could need practice. With tutoring, he said, it helps gauge what you know and what you don’t know as well as seeing your weaknesses.
Danielle H’s daughter will be her first child to go to college. The current high school junior has taken a pre-SAT test and a ACT trial test. She did much better on the SAT. “Her scores weren’t as high on the ACT trial test, Hoover said, “Her essay portion in the SAT was good. She is a great writer and that was something we thought could boost her score. She’d already done well in the pre-SAT.”
She is taking an online SAT study guide, she can go on her own pace. There is also a college counselor who works well with Sabrina, knowing that there can be many disruptions in the classroom.
TIP #6: Test preparation tutors can help students see every possible question that is on the test they are taking. They can also give feedback on their answers and why they were wrong or correct.
- On that note…tutoring helps hone skills found in one specific exam
“I took the actual SAT test early in my sophomore year. I did horrible,” Hunter said. Math was her kryptonite, Achilles’ heel, her barrier. “I had test anxiety. I did fine in everything except math”. It wasn’t until she started studying and growing more intentional about approaching tests when she started seeing results. In addition to her changed studying habits and intentionality, her mother hired a tutor in the end of her sophomore year. The tutor made all of the difference. “I did twice as better in my percentage in math. The growth was tremendous.”
Hoover’s daughter Sabrina has also improved since she started attending tutoring sessions. “It’s improved her self-confidence and belief in herself,” Hoover said, “each year is different, but tutoring gives her a boost and helps her keep caught up – in the classroom there are so many students. She can’t get the individualized help from her teacher.
Hoover said her daughter often feels left out in the classroom. “There were students who got it a faster, if she didn’t catch it, then she felt like she was stuck.” Sabrina is now looking at schools in Texas or in the West Coast. Her top pick is Arizona State University because of their sports journalism program.
TIP #7: According to the U.S. Department of Education, tutoring really works! Several studies conducted by the federal government have led to overwhelming evidence that tutoring benefits students’ self-confidence, motivation, reading and math skills. Students who are tutored two times a week for one hour improved immensely in their reading skills. More 50% of students successfully improved a year of reading skills compared to a control group with similar features who did not receive tutoring.