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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Preparing for the SAT/ACT

If you are planning to go to college, you have probably heard of the SAT and the ACT. In fact, most if not all colleges require you to take one of them at some point in your high school career. But you may ask, which test should I choose: the SAT or the ACT? This choice is infinitely important for your college career because many people score marginally better on one test than another. The reason is that the tests are extremely different from one another and value different sets of skills. If you want to show colleges your good side, you may want to research about the two. But don’t worry! As one who has taken both tests before, I have already researched the difference. Here are some main points:

The ACT is much more strenuous than the SAT. Don’t think of this as a bad thing until you have considered the entire picture. The ACT requires you to do questions with a much more daunting time limit. For example, the English section of the ACT has 75 questions which need to be done in 45 minutes, while the SAT has 44 questions for 35 minutes. At the same time, the questions on the ACT are easier than the ones on the SAT, but require you to finish them very fast. The advantage that the ACT has is that you have a much bigger room for error and that each mistake you make counts less towards your score than on the SAT. In the SAT, you have more time for questions which allows you keep a slower pace, but the questions are harder and may be more confusing. As a side note, the ACT has a Science section instead of two math sections like in the SAT, so if you are good at reading graphs and data and do not want to do as much algebra, the ACT is a right pick for you.
The SAT and the ACT tests may seem daunting, yet there are many ways you can prepare for them to show colleges your best self. As always, PRACTICE is the most important factor into getting the score you want. Just search “SAT practice tests” or “ACT practice tests” and download the PDF documents. Both the SAT and the ACT have at least 6 practice tests online that you can use. When practicing, print out the test part and the answer sheet, NOT the entire document. Much of the document is filled with testing advice, which you probably do not need to use ink and paper on. When taking practice tests, attempt to mimic the testing conditions as closely as possible. Make sure that you go by the time limits for each section, and try to wake up Saturday morning to take the practice test during the time the actual test will take place. Afterwards, you can use the scoring guide on the practice test PDF to score yourself, and remember to check the questions you got wrong! Learning from your mistakes is the best way to improve your test grade.
In addition to doing practice tests, there are places online where you can practice SAT/ACT questions, like khanacademy.org/sat, which can give you directed problems based on your PSAT test performance. Good luck on your SAT/ACT test!

This information is current as of this writing, and always remember to consult with your school's college counseling department for advice on standardized tests.

Post Written by Howard W, Homework Assistant

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