SAT or ACT? How to Choose Which Test Best Fits Your Student

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The time is finally approaching in every mother’s life when she must help launch her children in to the college world. G.P.A.’s are set, applications are rolling, and now it is time for that last big hoop: Standardized Testing. But with two options available, how do you choose which test is best for your child?


How to Choose Between the SAT and ACT

Here are a few tips on how to help your student decide which test is best for them.

Know the Difference

There are two exams that are widely accepted by colleges, the SAT and the ACT. Each test has its pros and cons, so it is important to know how they differ.

The SAT and ACT have completely different layouts, subjects, and focuses. The SAT is the most well-known. It is based on 2400 points, which are divided into Math, Critical Reading, and Writing sections. The SAT is recognized to be more critical-thinking based, with tricky questions that require both logical and abstract thinking skills.

The ACT has slowly grown in popularity and now almost every college will accept scores from the ACT as part of the application package. The ACT is scored out of 36 points which includes a Writing, Reading, Math, and Science section. The most important thing to let your child know is to not let the science section scare them! There is no actual science being tested; it simply tests the student’s ability to interpret charts and graphs. The ACT is great for students who have strong math skills and are quick test-takers. The most difficult part of the ACT is the time limit; so if your student is one who often finishes schools exams last, this might not be the test for you.

Try Both and See Which One Fits

Before you and your student can decide which test will help them get into the best schools, you need to have your student give each exam a try. Buy the Official College Board SAT and the Real ACT books from your local book store or you can get them on Amazon. These books are made directly by the test makers and use real past exams.

Have your student take a practice exam in with each book without any preparation, and see which one they score better on. Ask your student which test felt easier and more understandable. Their answers will indicate which exam’s layout and subjects best match your child’s test-taking style.

It is perfectly acceptable to submit scores from both exams to schools. So don’t worry if they take one, don’t score as well, and decide to try the other.

Next up: How to Prepare for the Exam

Stay tuned for my future post where I will explain the best strategies for preparing to take the SAT and ACT exams.

What is your child's test-taking style?




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Jocelyn Lieppman

Jocelyn is a recent college grad who is passionate about writing, traveling, and teaching. Right now, she works as a private tutor in Southern California as she explores her career interests. She spends her free time exploring new places and finding new adventures wherever she goes.


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