Archive for January, 2013


Monday, January 21st, 2013

This time of year I am asked repeatedly which test, the ACT or SAT is better for a junior in high school to take? The answer depends on the student. Most colleges will take the score from either the ACT or SAT  and your choice of test should be driven by the way the students tests. The ACT and SAT are different types of tests and they measure different skills. I recommend that a student take both the ACT and SAT each at least once by Fall of junior year to determine if they score higher in one than the other.

The ACT is a knowledge based test. This is why many times students score their best in the Spring of their junior year, by then they have been presented all the material in class to complete the ACT. Some people like the ACT better because they perceive that the ACT test more closely tests the core curriculum taught in most school classrooms. The ACT questions seem to more easily understood on first read compared to the SAT where the questions might need to be figured out as to what they’re asking you. The ACT requires higher level math skills and you will have to have some knowledge of trigonometry. This does not mean the math section is harder just that the students knowledge base should include this course information. The ACT has a science section which the SAT does not. The ACT science section is not pure science knowledge instead it measures your reading and reasoning skills based upon the information given in each question about science. The ACT writing is offered as optional, it currently isn’t needed for admission by all schools but, it is asked for by the colleges so they have a measure of the students writing skills when they consider remediation and class placement at the school. Admission counselors look more at the total score of the ACT and seem to be more interested in the composite score. This makes students feel they can have a weak section and still obtain a good score because of the other better section scores.

The SAT tests critical thinking and problem solving. The SAT is broken into more sections during the test which breaks up the testing compared to the larger sections of the ACT. Students need to be able to move from one subject to another more quickly to be comfortable and successful. As mentioned above there is no science section in the SAT, so if the student just has an overwhelming  fear of science the SAT could be the better test for them. Vocabulary is much more important in the SAT which can benefit the students skilled in writing and language. They also could benefit from the writing section included early in the test. Admission counselors look harder at the sections of the SAT looking for students strengths when considering admission.

Whichever test  a student takes they need to take some type of prep course. We have found that after a student takes both tests as practice and has a base score, they greatly benefit from really practicing the skills needed to take their chosen test successfully.  Remember that these tests only measure the students ability to choose the correct answer that day and that all the correct answers are offered on each question. This is why I believe that prep courses designed to prepare the student to have a strategy of how to attack the test and choose the correct answers work quicker and easier than trying to reteach high school based on the student weaknesses. For more information about the ACT/SAT prep courses we offer go to this link to see the first video of our DVD test prep courses. Scoring as high as possible  on the ACT or SAT is the easiest way a junior in high school can increase their chances of getting accepted into the schools of their choice and there is a lot of money in financial aid available to students that have scores that colleges are looking for.