Choosing Between Standardized Tests: The Importance of the ACT, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests

Lighthouse-College-Planning (14)

Colleges accept both college admissions examination scores, so it is up to you on what test you take and what scores you send. Most high schools do not offer both tests to their students or are not national test sites, so you need to sign-up for the tests and pay for them on your own. You can visit act.org or collegeboard.org to sign up for both tests as well as SAT subject tests depending if the colleges you are applying to want scores from the SAT subject tests. You will not be penalized for sending every score from each test; colleges look at the highest score.

ACT/SAT

ACT- Most students will take the ACT because it focuses on curriculum, based on what a student has learned in school. The ACT measures college readiness and is designed to measure academic achievement. The ACT has four subject area tests, English, Math, Science, and Reading, with an optional Writing portion. Scores are based on number of correct answers and are not penalized for incorrect answers.

SAT– Both the components and the structure of the SAT was just recently redesigned in March 2016. The new components of the SAT are evidence-based reading and writing with a reading, writing, math, and language test. The 50 minute essay is optional; colleges determine if they accept the essay or not. Total testing time is 3 hours, plus 50 minutes if you choose to take the essay portion. The SAT is more of an aptitude test measuring testing reasoning and verbal abilities.

SAT Subject Tests

There are 20 SAT subject tests in five general subject areas: English, History, Languages, Mathematics, and Sciences. Students can take up to three tests on one testing day; the tests are an hour long. The subject tests test you on how well you know the material in each subject area that you learned in high school. Most students taking the SAT subject have already taken an AP course in the subject area.

A good rule of thumb is that if you are taking the SAT subject tests, take them immediately after your AP exams. The information will be fresh in your memory and you will have to do little, if any studying at all. Most highly selective colleges will ask you to take 1-2 subject tests of your choice or if you are applying to become an Engineering major, the college may ask you to take a science test and/or math test; each college is different so you need to research!

Extremely Important!

These tests are extremely important when looking at your future. The scores of either test will determine what colleges you are accepted into and more importantly, how much money you will receive in scholarships. Every year, college is becoming more and more expensive, and if you want the college to pay YOU to attend their institution, study, study, study! I highly encourage you to evaluate your strengths and see which test is right for you. The higher you score on your test, the more money you will receive from the college/university you apply.

On average, I recommend that students study 45 minutes a night for the ACT or SAT. Like I mentioned above, each test has different components that you need to focus on. For instance, the majority of the ACT Math test is Pre-Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, and Geometry. Most students forget the formulas learned freshmen and sophomore year, so you need to revisit them and take the time to study.

If you receive your tests scores and you are not happy with them, take the test again. On average, our students retake the test 3-5 times until they are happy with their score. Some students will also pay a tutor to work with them in the subject area they are struggling in. Majority of students will pay for an ACT/SAT prep program before taking the test in order to prepare them. Most prep programs are costly, but if you receive a $16,000 scholarship, the $2,500 prep program is worth every dollar!

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