Before deciding on the test your child is going to take, you both need to first discuss the college(s) that your child wants to attend. If your child is only applying to colleges that accept SAT scores, then obviously studying for the ACT is a waste of time. However, if your child is applying for colleges that accept both tests (like most 4 year colleges) then the answer is simple. Take whichever test increases the likelihood that your child will be accepted into the college of their choice. However, before deciding on the test, it’s good to have a solid understanding of the differences between both tests.
The SAT assesses reasoning. It is a paper-based standardized test designed to assess students on their readiness for college. The SAT doesn’t cover topics typically found in the high school curriculum. Instead, it measures students on their reasoning and vocabulary. The rationale behind this is that the CollegeBoard, a nonprofit organization that authors the SAT, wishes for the test to be hard to study for and to be not coachable. However, there is an entire industry designed to help students improve their SAT scores. Organizations such as LogonTutor.com, offer several tutors that can assist students in SAT prep in many subjects. The ACT on the other hand, assesses knowledge. The test evaluates students by focusing on what they have learned in school. Compared to the SAT, the questions in the ACT are generally more direct and straight forward. However, don’t let that fool you since there are enough difficult questions that can make finishing on time a challenge.
Another difference between both tests lies in the subject matter. The SAT tests in 3 subjects which are mathematics, writing and critical reading, while the ACT test for 5 subjects. The subjects that the ACT tests for are English, mathematics, reading, science and writing. However, the writing section is optional but some colleges do require it. However, if it is not required and this is not a strength that your child has, it is wise to avoid taking that portion of the test.
College admission officers often view the submitted test scores differently as well. When looking at the SAT score, they are usually concerned about how well your child scored in each section individually. In contrast, when reviewing your child’s ACT scores, they look at the overall score. For this reason, you might decide that it’s best for your child to take an ACT as it provides a complete picture of their academic strength. Likewise, you might decide that your child should take the SAT if s/he in not strong in the academic area of science because it’s not tested in the SAT.
The best way to determine which test is the best one for your child is by having them take a practice test for both. If your child scored similarly on both practice tests, then choose the test that feels more natural for your child and will increase his/her odds of getting into the college of their choice.
Many people choose to take both tests and submit only the best one. However, focusing on one test is best. Both tests are different enough that studying for one will not increase the score of another. So your child’s time is better spent on studying for one test exclusively to improve their results.
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About the Author: LogonTutor.com connects students with local and online tutors for academic subjects, K-12 and college. We strive to serve students by assisting them to achieve their educational goals.