5 ways to determine whether to take the SAT or ACT Test
Wendy Williams reached out to Olu Sanya, owner of Success Prep regarding how families should determine which standardized test to take for college admissions. Olu’s points are wonderful and should be considered when thinking about which admissions test is best for your student!
Parents ask me all the time if there is ONE way of determining which college entry test (SAT or ACT) their student will do well on. My answer to this million dollar question is, tell me about your student, including their strengths, weaknesses and any learning challenges and then I can help you determine if your student has an advantage with one test over the other. The reason I answer this way is because the SAT and ACT tests are two tests measuring the same person’s abilities but in two different ways. Therefore, the academic personality of the student weighs heavily into which test will be more appropriate for him or her.
At this point I’d like to caution that for many students there is no way to tell which test is best. Below are the 5 steps I use to determine whether your student should take the SAT or ACT test.
1. Take a practice test
a. Taking a practice SAT and ACT test under timed conditions is one way of exposing your student to both tests. One misconception many Parents have is, whichever test my student scores higher on from a practice test is the test to focus on. The issue with this approach is about 70% of students statistically score the same when comparing an SAT & ACT practice test score; the reason is most students don’t take a practice test seriously, as a result I am skeptical about making a judgement call based on the practice scores alone. What I like however about a student taking both practice tests is that it allows me to ask the student a critical question; “Now that you have experienced both tests, which one do you like and why”? This rather unscientific question allows me and the student to highlight aspects about the SAT or ACT test he or she feels comfortable with, which is a strong indicator of which test would produce the most success.
2. Which test has approved you for extended time?
a. For students with learning or processing challenges and those who have been approved for extended time (Time and a half or Double time), getting approval for one test and not the other is the one strong indicator you should prep and stick with the test that has approved you for extended time. Taking a test without the extended time when you have learning challenges, usually is a recipe for disaster and almost always guarantees a lower score on that test.
3. Are you a fast reader with strong comprehension skills?
a. If your student is a fast reader with strong comprehension skills, then the ACT is most likely the test for you. Three of the four sections (English, Reading & Science) of the ACT all utilize a student’s reading and comprehension skills. Success on the ACT is heavily determined by how quickly you can read, comprehend and answer questions based on the passage or experiment given. The layout of an ACT question is straight forward but it requires the student to be very fast and efficient with their answer. If your student is a slow reader without extended time, they will struggle finishing the test and will not get a chance to show all that they know on the ACT.
4. Do you possess a strong vocabulary and are you good at problem solving?
a. If your student has a strong vocabulary and is great at problem solving, then the SAT is a better test to take. A major focus of the SAT is to identify how well a student applies their critical thinking & problem solving skills to solve Math and English questions. The layout of the SAT isn’t as straight forward but it is very coachable. If your student is great at acquiring information and applying it on a test, then the SAT test is the test to focus on.
5. Still not sure? Take both Tests a. if you are still not sure, take both tests. This recommendation is the best way to filter which test is best for your student if there isn’t a clear advantage on SAT or ACT based on the previous 4 points stated above. If a student follows Success Prep’s recommendation of starting prep in the Spring of his or her 10th grade year and completing all tutoring and testing by spring of his or her 11th grade year, there will be enough time to take an official SAT and ACT test to determine which test the student prefers and then focus on the preferred test for a third testing.