ACT Or SAT? Five Tips to Pick the Right College Entrance Exam

The SAT and ACT are both respected, nationally-recognized tests. Historically, there’s been a geographic divide between the two; nowadays, very few colleges require or prefer one test over the other. So which one should you take? Well, since you can’t really say one test is any easier than the other, that all depends on your skills and preferences. Basically, you should go for the one you’ll score higher on!

Here are some tips to help you make your decision:

1. Who says size doesn’t matter?

The ACT is a shorter test. The SAT takes a whopping 3 hours, 45 minutes, while the ACT comes out to a hefty 2 hours, 55 minutes, making the SAT about 30% longer than the ACT. Either way, you’re stuck taking a long test. If you have a ridiculously short attention span, then the ACT might be right for you, but realistically, after nearly 3 hours, why sweat an extra 50 minutes?

2. When in doubt, just guess… right?

The SAT has a guessing penalty – minus a quarter of a point for each incorrect response. Not so with the ACT. Guess away! So you should answer every question on the ACT, but on the SAT, you should just leave the answer blank when you can’t eliminate at least one answer choice. Does this make the SAT “harder”? Not really. With the right strategies, you can even make the SAT’s guessing penalty work to your advantage.

3. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s superscore!

The SAT reports each of your three “subscores” separately-one each for critical reading, writing, and mathematics. So, many colleges will combine your best three subscores from all the times you’ve taken the SAT to make a “superscore.” In the past, schools would not do this with the ACT. Recently, however, many schools have begun to make ACT “superscores” too.

4. What is the difference anyway?

Both tests have a grammar, reading comprehension, essay and math portions. The ACT has an extra “science” section, but don’t worry. I used quotes because it’s really just another test of your reasoning skills – not much chemistry, physics or biology knowledge needed. Broadly speaking, the ACT tests skills that you (should have) learned in high school, while the SAT tries to evaluate your innate problem-solving abilities.

For example, the ACT math section tests a few topics that typically aren’t covered until pre-calculus. While the SAT leaves out these topics, its math problems generally have more complicated setups.

The ACT’s essay is optional, but some colleges require it anyway. Its essay topics are always questions of school policy, while the SAT’s essays deal with more abstract moral or philosophical issues.

In the critical reading sections, the SAT’s vocabulary is harder, but the ACT taxes your critical reading and analysis skills. The ACT English section gives you a couple of long passages with grammar and critical reading questions mixed together; the SAT tests reading and grammar separately.

5. You can’t know if you like it till you’ve tried it!

How do I know which test is better for me? Try them! Take some free practice tests online and see which one fits your fancy. Both the SAT and ACT offer practice questions or tests on their official websites.

What Are The Reasons Of Getting A Low Score On The ACT?

Sometimes, intelligent students think that they have it for the ACT as well. But surprisingly, they get a low score on this standardized test. Have you experienced the same?

Smart students scoring low on the ACT happens quite a lot. It is in fact a common problem. However, there are ways to avoid it, such as by using the most effective test prep techniques. You can maintain your excellent performance in the classroom and the ACT if you apply the right strategies. The first thing that you ought to do is to understand the reasons why some high achievers in class obtain a low score on the ACT.

The tendency of many intelligent students is to get complacent, thinking that the ACT is merely the same as the usual tests that they take in school. Then again, this is not the case. Why?

Multiple subjects are included in the exam. When you take the ACT, you’ll take a comprehensive exam that covers Math, Science, Literature and Writing. Whereas in the classroom, if you’re going to tackle a Math test, all you have to do is study for Math. That’s why studying for the ACT is more rigorous, and you have to engage on an effectual review program before taking it. A test prep routine for the ACT tends to be more challenging and time-consuming.

There is a time limit to follow when taking every section in the test. Time pressure when dealing with the ACT can be overwhelming. It can cause test anxiety that results to poor performance and low ACT scores.

You’ll encounter test questions and answer options that can be misleading.Test-takers ought to be meticulous and wary because there are items in the ACT that could fool them. You may think that you’ve marked the right bubble, but it is actually erroneous. It’s not the same as the typically straightforward tests that you take in high school.

Expectations are high when tackling the ACT. This could be distressing to numerous students. As an important standardized test, your score in the ACT will dictate whether you’ll gain admission to a high quality college or otherwise. Because of this, you might push yourself too hard, and the frustration that you feel might lead to a low score.

Different Problem Scenarios About the ACT and How To Resolve Them

Scenario # 1

You might be using the wrong study methods. How was your ACT prep? Have you done it effectively and with a sufficient amount of time? Come the day of taking the test, you might have answered all the questions within the time limit. You had no worries about test anxiety, either. Things seemed to be looking up, but you were disappointed when your score report came. You got a low ACT score! Why did this happen?

The Resolution:

There are many cases of students having studied for an ample time before taking the ACT, but upon getting the results, they were aghast to get a low score. A Math whiz in the classroom may not always ace the ACT Math test. This section of the ACT usually covers more topics, requiring more skills and knowledge. Consider as well that the phrasing of some questions and answer selections in the test can be tricky. Try changing your studying approach for your retake. Take note that the common ways of studying for a test in the classroom may not suffice when prepping for the ACT.

For instance, take more ACT practice tests. Research has shown that a good study program should comprise 30% of practice testing. Practice tests can acclimatize you to the format and approach of the ACT, consequently boosting your confidence and eliminating test anxiety.

Scenario #2

You were overconfident, and studied insufficiently for the exam. Intelligent students are predilected to ace their tests in the classroom. They may think that the ACT is as easy as their typical high school tests, thus they prepared haphazardly for it. Nevertheless, they get a low score in the ACT.

The Resolution:

Be aware that the ACT is different from the customary tests that you deal with in high school. If you’re not used its approach, you might get confused. The creators of the ACT have designed their test to measure students’ skills and knowledge. They therefore sprinkled it with a good dose of tricky and misleading items. Succumbing to it can ultimately result to a low score.

Practice as much as you can to combat this phenomenon. Schedule your ACT take or retake so that you get enough time to study for it. Preferably a few months. Arrange a routine study schedule utilizing credible and effective online and offline test prep resources. It is particularly crucial to take ACT practice tests regularly. Three or four practice tests throughout your whole test prep period could suffice in conditioning you to tackle the format and structure of the test. Be sure to review your wrong answers and decipher why you missed them. Know your weak points and build on them so that you’ll be ready and able to take the ACT despite its intricacies.

ACT Test: How to Overcome Anxiety and "Bombing" on Tests

If you want to overcome test anxiety and bombing on important tests like the ACT test, you have to first realize what causes test anxiety in the first place. There are three main causes of test anxiety. Understanding them will help you do much better on the any test.

  • Psychological causes are the first problem leading to test anxiety. Whether it is being unprepared or past bad experiences, students go into the test defeated before they start. One key to defeating the tendency to bomb on tests is to understand that even if you guess on every single question, you’d still get a score of 14. Further understanding the key to having enough time to answer every single question, even with a guess, also goes a long way to defeat the psychological causes of test anxiety.
  • Physiological causes are the second culprit that contribute to test anxiety. The fact is that as we fear the test we tense up and breathe less. Both of these things hurt the brain’s ability to be operating at peak efficiency. The fact is that the brain can use up to half the oxygen that we breathe in when we concentrate, and shallow breathing from being nervous starves our brain.
  • Poor study methods also contribute to test problems. When a student is primarily an auditory learner, who learns by listening, and has spent all his time studying like a visual learner, by just reading books, he has good reason to be nervous! Learning to study according to the style of learner you are is critical to having confidence going into the ACT test.

So if you want to overcome test anxiety that might cause you to bomb on the ACT test, keep in mind these three causes of bombing on tests and learn more by taking a good ACT test prep course that will teach you how to score your best on the ACT.

ACT Test Prep: Free Practice Tests to Study For the ACT

Finding free ACT practice tests is a lot easier than most people realize. Instead of spending $25 for a book that has practice tests or paying a membership to an online site, you can get official ACT version for free. But the fact that they are free is only part of the benefit of getting these tests.

Why All ACT Practice Tests Are Not Equal

There are a lot of books that you can buy that feature multiple ACT tests. But most of these are nowhere near as valuable as the free, official versions. The first reason is that the official versions give you a breakdown of your score once you grade it. Without breaking your Math and English results into sub-scores, you won’t know exactly what you need to study to improve.

The second reason is that unless the test is an official version, you can’t be sure how true to the real test is. The last thing you want to do is waste your time studying based upon a test result that is not true to the real thing.

Where To Find Free ACT Practice Tests

The two places that you can get free tests are online, at the official ACT website, which is ACTstudent.org.

The second place you can get free ACT practice tests is from your high school counselor. They will have old copies of the practice booklet from previous years. Since the test has not changed, these are just as valuable as the current test.

ACT Test: A Parent’s Guide to Getting a High ACT Test Score

So many parents ask me what they can do to help their students get a higher ACT test score, and so many of them are doing the wrong things, that it can be discouraging. However, at least they are asking and can get the right information.

There are two categories of advice I give parents about helping their students get a high ACT test score. What to do and what NOT to do.

What NOT To Do:

First and foremost, don’t ramp up the pressure on your student unintentionally by well-meaning, but misguided tactics. Spending a lot of money on tutoring or an ACT prep course may seem like the right thing to do, but that just puts more pressure on the student to make sure the money is not wasted. They need a confidence booster, not fear of increasing consequences of failure.

The other thing is not to nag. So many students plan to study and then, when their parents remind them, they choose not to study because they are feeling forced. Sometimes the best thing a parent can do is nothing; let them take the test the first time and do poorly, and then they will be more responsive to some gently suggestions.

What TO Do To Help Your Student Get a High ACT Test Score

The things that you want to do are to be supportive, but in a way that builds confidence. A quiet, reassuring “I know that you’ll do well” goes a long way to reducing the Test Anxiety that can cause students to bomb on tests.

Also, involve your student in selecting an ACT prep course that is simple and not intimidating. If it is too long or too expensive, they will just feel more pressure to perform and anxiety over how they will complete the course.

Sometimes, it is a better idea to have them complete two shorter ACT prep courses, because after the first brief course, they may see results and opt for a second. It’s much easier to climb a mountain by thinking one step at a time. Faced with a 10 week, 20 hour course, few students feel enthusiastic.