Thursday, January 9, 2014

College Crash Course Part 4: ACT or SAT...That is the Question

So you know your child will need to take college entrance exams as part of the college admissions process, but which test should he take and when?

The SAT and the ACT are the two main exams your child will need to take. They have some similarities but are really very different tests. Some students take both tests while others choose to take only one. Here’s what you need to know:

Is a reasoning test that’s more like an intelligence test than anything else. It measures the student’s ability to think outside the box. It also measures his use of language.

Is an achievement test that directly measures what the student has learned in school. The questions will be familiar to the student.
Is more likely to include story problems and creative application of the basic rules of math.

Is more straightforward and more academic. Doesn’t require creative problem solving.
Has three segments: Critical reading, math, and writing. Math segment does not include trigonometry.

Has four or five segments: English, math, reading, science, and writing (optional). Math segment includes trigonometry. Science segment requires interpretation of graphs and charts and includes questions about the scientific method.

Is a mental test. Few students are able to answer every question correctly no matter how much time is given.

Is a speed test. Students are likely to run out of time.
Punishes the student for wrong answers. If the student can’t make an informed guess, he shouldn’t guess at all.

Does not punish the student for wrong answers. It’s better to guess than leave the question unanswered.

Now that you know the similarities and differences between the SAT and ACT, which test is better for your child? You may already know based on your child’s education or abilities. Is he better at critical thinking or remembering everything he’s learned? Just for fun, your child can take a critical thinking test to see how good he is at creative problem solving.  Here’s the link to the test:

Kaplan has created a sample of both tests that your child can take to determine which one better measures his strengths. The test includes four sections of SAT questions and three sections of ACT questions. Here’s the link to the sample tests:

Most students wait until their 11th grade year to begin testing; however, it can be beneficial to begin in 10th grade. Getting a “baseline” early can help pinpoint weak areas, enabling your child to focus on those areas when prepping for the next test.

Be looking for my next blog where I’ll share with you Step 4: Crack Down in 11th Grade.