It’s Saturday and rather than going out with his friends, junior Sahil Gopal, cracks open his books and begins to prepare for what could be the deciding factor on whether he gets into the college of his choice or not.
Whether it’s the SAT or the ACT, both tests can greatly improve a college application and help students get into the college of their choice. However, like all important tests, the proper preparation is vital and requires a lot of time and dedication.
“I’ve studied a lot for my SAT over the past couple of months,” Gopal said. “I know that a high score looks really good on a college application and I plan on applying for some prestigious colleges so every positive attribute and score goes a long way.”
Of course, the two tests are different, but there are some parts of the SAT and the ACT that are similar when it comes to the content.
“The SAT will test your reading, writing, and math skills. Its designed to assess your critical reading skills and ability to read between the lines. The ACT is more like an achievement test. In addition to reading and writing like the SAT, the ACT also contains science questions,” Counselor Patti Snider said.
Along with the similarities between the ACT and SAT, the two tests have some important differences that are worth taking into consideration before testing.
“One significant difference is that on the SAT, they’ll penalize you a fourth of a point for getting questions wrong so its important not to just guess on questions,” Snider said, “The ACT, on the other hand, does not penalize you for getting an incorrect answer so make sure that you leave no questions unanswered if you’re going to take the ACT.”
In order for student to score the highest on either test, its important to select the test that best suites your academic skills.
“If you’re a good student and you’ve been keeping up with your classes you’ll do well in the ACT. If you do especially well in writing and critical thinking you’ll do well in the SAT,” Snider said, “We recommend that students take both though just to raise their odds of doing well on at least one. Then, we recommend that you retake the one that you did best on because statistically students do better the second time they take the test.”
For students that don’t have the best grades (a B average for example), a high score on either the SAT or the ACT can be that one key factor colleges look at that will help get you accepted. A high score can distinguish your college application amongst other applications with similar GPAs.
“Kids are ranked first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, and fourth quarter. Colleges require a certain SAT or ACT score from those that apply depending on which quartile you are in,” Snider said. “If you’re in the first quartile, your score does not have to be as high as someone who is in the third quartile for instance. That’s why it’s important for those that are in the bottom half of their class to prepare and do well on either the SAT or the ACT because it can greatly affect their odds of enrollment into the college of their choice.”
For those that want to prepare for their upcoming tests in order to do well, there are multiple helpful methods that will provide a greater chance of receiving a high score on the SAT or the ACT.
“Students who have taken the PSAT with us during their sophomore or junior year can review the PSAT test online. We will give you a code and you can use that to access your test and see not only what you did wrong, but what you can practice and improve on,” Snider said. “That’s something that will help a lot for students taking the SAT or ACT because if you review and learn what you did wrong, you most likely won’t do it wrong the next time. There are also multiple sites to take practice tests such as CollegeBoard or even the ACT website.”
One common misconception for students is that one test is more important than the other. However, this is not the case.
“Colleges will look at whichever one you decide to take. They have no preference towards the SAT or the ACT. Most students believe that one test is more important than the other but that simply isn’t so,” Snider said. “All colleges factor your ACT/SAT scores the same. That’s why we recommend that you take both because either one is acceptable and a high score on either one is equally important when it comes to students applying for the college of their choice.”
Regardless of which test you decide to take, its important to prepare properly in order to ensure a satisfying score.
“I’ve been studying a lot for both tests, and it can get pretty boring, but I know that when I get a high score it will be worth the extra time and effort,” Gopal said.