You've Got Questions, I’ve Got Answers
The SAT vs. the ACT
That's right. You. When I talk to parents, they usually ask me a bunch of questions about the SAT and ACT. Here are ten of them, in no particular order.
1. Do all American colleges accept the SAT and ACT? Do any of them favor one of the tests?
Yes, they all accept both tests and they accept them on an equal footing. The good news is you can just submit the one on which your child scored highest.
2. How much tutoring do I need?
I can answer this question after meeting you, seeing your scores on an official, timed practice test, and finding out what your goal score or school is.
3. Should I take the SAT or the ACT?
Take a practice test of both and tell me the scores. Chances are I'll tell you to focus on the one on which you scored higher. If your scores are pretty close, I'll probably tell you to take both.
4. How often do you meet with students?
It depends on the student's goals, starting point, and, of course, budget. The average is once a week for 60 minutes for 10 weeks.
5. Do you assign homework?
Yes. To get the most out of my tutoring, students should work on the test a little bit every day - there is so much students can accomplish on their own with some guidance from me.
6. What are the major differences between the SAT and ACT?
The SAT emphasizes reasoning and the ACT is more straightforward but emphasizes speed. The SAT tests vocabulary directly, while the ACT does not. The ACT tests English skills differently than the SAT tests grammar skills. The ACT "Science" section has no equivalent on the SAT, but rarely tests science knowledge; rather, it mostly tests the ability to answer questions based on the procedure and data from a science experiment. The ACT tests more advanced math (more Algebra 2 and trigonometry). There is no guessing penalty on the ACT. Come March of 2016, there won't be a guessing penalty on the SAT, either.
7. When should SAT / ACT prep begin?
It depends. Students can start building reading, math, writing, grammar, and vocabulary skills no matter how old they are (within reason). A good time to start actual test prep is the summer before junior year so students are ready for the pre-SAT (PSAT) and pre-ACT (ACT Aspire). Again, how much work a student needs depends on several factors.
8. My student "isn't a good test-taker". Do you teach strategies about test-taking?
Yes. My approach combines general test-taking strategies, test-specific techniques, and foundational skill-building. I would offer that "bad test-taker" is rarely a good way to describe a student. Many of the skills involving test-taking are learnable, and many of them are not "tips and tricks" but rather are fundamental skills like reading comprehension, reasoning ability, math concepts, etc.
9. What is your average score increase?
I don't keep track of averages because I don't think that data would tell you anything useful about your potential. I will be happy to make a prediction about how much you can increase your scores after we meet, based on where you're starting, how motivated you are, how much time you can work on the test outside of the tutoring, and so forth. A good question also might be, how much a student can improve. I have had students go up 50-200 points on the SAT and 4-6 points on the ACT.
10. When is the best time to take the test?
"When you're ready" is the short answer. By that, I mean when you've hit your goal score in practice a few times. There is a caveat: you should endeavor to be ready by the spring of junior year, so you give yourself at least a few chances to take the tests. Both the SAT and ACT have what's known as "score choice" - you can choose which test date's scores to send to colleges.