Standardized entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT play a major role in the college admission process. The SAT is administered by the College Board and measures skill or natural intelligence. The American College Testing Program (ACT) is administered by ACT Inc. and measures achievement in the core curriculum areas. It is based on the knowledge and skills normally taught in high school college-preparatory courses. All colleges will accept either one but it’s important to know the difference between the two.
- The questions on the ACT have more advanced math concepts, and tend to be more straightforward. The ACT also has a science section, which the SAT does not.
- The SAT has a strong emphasis on vocabulary, is broken up into more sections such as critical reading, math and writing.
Everyone should take a Mock ACT after taking the PSAT so that the results can be compared and the student can then move forward to take the assessment that most accurately represents his or her capabilities.
Start getting ready at least six weeks before the test. Take a practice test to prepare for the real thing. There are several free online practice exams:
Strategies to keep in mind:
- Relax. Stress is your number one enemy. If you’re not satisfied with the results you can retake the test.
- Play Detective. Eliminate answers you are sure are wrong, and guess from the remaining choices. Narrowing down your choices will increase your chances of choosing the correct one.
- Avoid confusing variables in math questions. Turn the questions into simple arithmetic problems by plugging in a number and solving the problem.
When retaking the test, it’s important to have three pieces of information: the score you have, the score you want and the plan to reach your goal. The benefit of retaking the SAT and/or ACT is that scores usually go up after the first try.
You may surprise yourself and your higher scores may even motivate you to apply to other schools or scholarships that you thought were out of reach. Colleges will take your highest score in each section, not just your more recent score. Some will even use test scores as a factor when handing out scholarship money, so plan to take the test at least twice!