SAT vs. ACT

Those of us with teens entering their last years of high school wonder where the time went.
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It seems like it was just yesterday that I put my oldest on the bus for the first time. In two weeks, she will be entering her Senior year of high school.  Currently, we are in the midst of college tours, letters of recommendation, and entrance exams.

Have you given any thought to which entrance exams your child should be taking? Did you even know there was more than one test?

The decision on whether to take the SAT or the ACT will be determined by the admissions criteria of the colleges your child is applying to. If the admissions office does not specify which test is preferred, do not stress. One test is not superior to the other. Each test places emphasis on different aspects of your child’s high school career.

Sit down with your child and take into consideration which test format is best suited for his academic strengths. Both tests take roughly about the same amount of time, but the ACT is divided into four sections; Math, Science, Reading, and English, plus an optional writing section. The SAT is broken up into three sections; Math, Reading, and Writing. The SAT is designed to test your child’s critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities, whereas, the ACT measures your child’s general knowledge and competency to complete college-level work. Students who enjoy solving puzzles will prefer the style of the SAT. The ACT is typically chosen by students who appreciate straightforward questions, both in reading comprehension and math.

While there are no vocabulary questions on the ACT, your child will need to have a strong foundation in vocabulary to be successful. The questions test your knowledge of vocabulary through context. For example, if you are familiar with each of the words in the question, you are more likely to get the correct answer. Test takers with strong vocabulary skills have an advantage when taking both the ACT or SAT.

If the colleges your child is interested in accepts scores from either test, you may want to consider taking both. Most students end up scoring similarly on both tests, however, some students do much better on one test over the other. Have your child visit his guidance counselor to schedule time to take the PLAN or the PSAT, which are similar to practice ACTs or SATs respectively.

The SAT and ACT are only one aspect of your child’s college application, however when an admissions counselor is reviewing hundreds of applications a day, an outstanding test score will set him apart from the rest.

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