Many people ask me whether I recommend the ACT of the SAT. I always tell them the ACT for many reasons. In my opinion, the ACT is most closely related to the subjects he or she has studied all throughout middle and high school. It’s the one that allows more variety in skill assessment. It just makes more sense. Now that doesn’t mean the SAT does not have its place. It does.
The SAT assesses primarily analytical reading, comprehension, writing, and mathematical acuity while the ACT measures math, reading, English, science, and writing. Both tests take about 3 hours to complete independent of the writing essay section. The range of scores for the SAT is 400-1600 (2400 including the essay portion) and 1-36 on the ACT. Both allow students to qualify for merit-based scholarships, admission to college, and prestigious honors and awards. You really do not lose by choosing either test. I recommend taking both and seeing which one you want to focus on as your favorite. Then, here are some practical steps to take once you identify a test you want to stick with until you get the score you desire.
1. Ensure you have taken up to Geometry or Math 3 (Trigonometry and Advanced Algebra courses) prior to taking the ACT or the SAT: Refrain from overzealously pursuing the ACT or the SAT without taking the appropriate math courses in school first. If you do not have sufficient math courses under your belt, taking either test is insufficient. For both tests, overwhelmingly, students perform better the more math classes they have taken.
2. Use your score report to its maximum potential: The score reports are full of valuable information. Most people view their score and then chunk the report to file 13 (the trash). Do not do this. Use the helpful guides on either the College Board or ACT website to walk you through how to understand your score report. Most importantly, spend at least 2-3 hours exploring the report to determine what errors you made and what you need to focus on the next time. Again, this is probably the most valuable report you have access to prior to taking another test. It is as if you have your own individual diagnostic report of how well you performed on the test. Use it wisely.
3. Form a serious study group: Gathering a group of friends together with similar goals and dreams is a win-win situation, as long as all involved are focused. I highly recommend finding a partner or more friends willing to be in a serious study group, focused on prepping like a rock star. You want people who are encouragers, motivators, hardworking, and dedicated. Stay away from lazy slackers who are unaware of how to focus and dedicate themselves to a cause for a period of time. You want to be around the right people if you are studying intensely to score as high as you can on these assessments.
4. Consider taking a test prep course: They are available everywhere so find one that is reputable, as close to your home as possible so you do not get exhausted from the constant travel, and has a track record of success. Stay away from companies that make grand promises that are not validated. Your time and money are valuable. Use them wisely.
5. Take multiple official practice tests that are released either from SAT or ACT: Before you purchase a ton of outside materials, consider using the ones provided by the parent organization of the test in which you are preparing.
Both the SAT and the ACT offer released tests that come fully ready with answer keys and explanations. This will be your best method for studying and practicing key things in which you did not perform well.
6. Simulate an actual testing environment as if you would for the real test when you practice: Adhere to the time requirements, breaks, calculator usage, etc. Try to simulate the actual test settings you would experience during testing time. Do not allow yourself additional time or perks you would not normally experience. Have a timer or stop watch set to time each of the sections. This is especially important so you are as realistic as possible. You have to build strength and endurance to withstand the 3-4 hour tests and practice makes perfect.
It’s important to note that colleges accept both tests and do not value one over the other. Do your best and do what it takes to master either the ACT or the SAT. You will be in college before you know it. These tests will not affect your college journey beyond the initial point of admission. You will have other things that occupy your time. The future is still bright for you.