January 2012 E-NEWSLETTER

posted Jan 6, 2012, 11:44 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Jan 6, 2012, 11:46 PM ]

            SAT or ACT—which is best?  If you can’t readily find the mistake in that first sentence, you might be better suited for the SAT.  That’s because the mistake in that first sentence is grammatical.  The sentence should read:  SAT or ACT—which is better?  (When comparing two items, nothing can be “best.”  When comparing two items, something can only be “better.” Its a question of superlative versus comparative adjectives.)  Likewise, if you easily recognized the mistake in that last sentence (Hint:  look at the punctuation.), you may do better on the ACT than the SAT. (Answer:  “Its” should be “It’s.”) 

This first paragraph represents only one of the many differences among standardized tests.  (Did you catch the mistake in the previous sentence?  When comparing two things, you should use “between”—not “among.”  When comparing three or more things, use “among.”) 

Okay—enough of the trick questions.  I’m just trying to make a point.  Regarding the writing component of standardized testing, the SAT focuses more on vocabulary; the ACT emphasizes grammar and punctuation. 

While the writing (English) sections of both tests include critical reading and identifying errors (the same types of questions), the strategy a student should use for the writing section of the ACT is vastly different from the strategy of the SAT..  Purchasing a practice book and studying appropriate test-taking techniques or using a personal coach can help a student know which time-saving strategy to use when. 

On the other hand, even if a student is familiar with which strategies to use when, if he doesn’t know which math or English concepts will be covered on the test, he will also be at a disadvantage.  Again, investing in a practice book or getting personal coaching can help alleviate this issue.

ACT includes not only geometry and algebra 1 & 2 questions on its test, but also a few basic trigonometry problems; SAT limits its math questions to geometry and algebra.  While taking the SAT requires approximately 25 minutes more than taking the ACT with writing, the SAT is broken into ten sections ranging from ten minutes to 30 minutes.  The ACT consists of four 45-minute sections plus an optional (but highly recommended) 30-minute writing section. 

Some students avoid the ACT altogether due to their fear of the dreaded science section.  What most students don’t know is that the ACT science section is more about graph-reading than science.  If you feel more confident about your basic core knowledge (ACT) than your critical thinking skills (SAT), try the ACT.

One of the most significant differences between the SAT and ACT is the way the tests are scored.  No points are deducted for wrong answers on the ACT; ¼ point is subtracted for each incorrect answer on the SAT.  This fact is important to know when trying to decide whether or not to make an “educated guess” on a question. 

What’s the bottom line on choosing which standardized test to take?  Unless a student is extremely short on time (e.g., a spring senior who has taken neither test), I recommend that, initially, every student take both the ACT and the SAT. After a student has taken both tests, the student should evaluate (through a comparative chart) which score is actually better. (Only 30% of students do equally well on both.) He should then focus his preparation on the test on which he did better and take it a second time.  Ideally, all standardized testing should be finished by the end of the junior year. 

A myriad of disparities exist between the ACT and SAT, therefore, copious rumination and cogitation are extremely portentous in the test preparation process.  (If you “enjoyed” that vocabulary word-laden sentence, you will probably do better on the SAT than the ACT.)  In other words:  There are many differences between ACT & SAT, and because standardized test scores play a critical role in both college admission and merit aid, a student should carefully consider the differences between the two tests, and thoroughly prepare for both.

As always, please forward this newsletter to friends who might be interested in college planning information.  Do remember to check out the “upcoming deadlines” section of the website for a monthly calendar of what you should be doing this month to stay on track with the college planning process.  The link to our newsletter is: www.collegeadvisingandplanning.com.

 You can also  “like” my FACEBOOK page (College Advising and Planning) where I post interesting articles and videos about college planning.

Finally, a free college planning seminar on “Standardized Test Strategies:  Questions and Answers” will be offered Monday evening, February 6th at 6:30 p.m. at Cherry Hills Library. Additionally, on Friday, January 27th, I will be speaking on “The Advantages and Disadvantages of Home Education in College Admissions” at 9:30 a.m. at the Educational Resource Center in Albuquerque. 

For more information about either of these free presentations or to inquire about our individual college planning services (including one-on-one TEST PREPARATION) please check out our website or call us at (505) 918-7669.