How important is The Test?
This is a good question.
Most colleges and universities list a student’s transcript, the record of their classes and grades, as the most important part of an application. The rigor of the curriculum chosen and your performance over time in these courses give the best picture of how you function as a student and how successful you are likely to be in college.
Test scores, if required, are given different weight at different schools. But, make no mistake, they do matter quite a bit!
Some schools will weigh the scores more heavily and be more rigid about their requirements.
Large public institutions fall into this category. Smaller, private colleges are often more flexible in the range of scores they admit.
Pay close attention to the middle 50% range of scores of accepted freshmen.
If you are in that range, coupled with a GPA in their middle range, you are a good candidate for that school.
If you are above the range, you are a strong candidate and more like to be offered merit aid if the school gives it.
If you are below the range, it is not impossible to be admitted, but you must ask yourself, “Why should they admit me?” “What can I bring to the campus that is valuable?”
This is where a holistic, or comprehensive admissions process benefits students.
A student’s extra-curricular involvements and achievements, strong recommendations, essays and interviews can tip the balance in favor of a student with scores in the lower part of the range or even a bit below the middle range.
There are more and more schools that have made test scores optional in the application process. (A full list of these schools can be found here.)
It is recognized that performance on one high-stakes test does not correlate to a student’s true ability and potential to develop and be successful, academically or career-wise.
Schools that have made this decision will often ask an applicant to provide additional information, such as an extra essay, recommendation, example of graded work, and/or an interview in order to get a fuller picture of the student.
What is the difference between the SAT and the ACT?
Most colleges accept either the SAT or the ACT. There are some significant differences in the tests, however, so you may want to try a practice test for each to see which is better for you.
Differences at a glance via Kaplan Test Prep Online
|10 sections; 3 hours 45 min||5 sections; 3 hours 25 min (with writing test)|
|No science section||Science reasoning section|
|No trigonometry section||Math sections include some trigonometry|
|Guessing penalty (-1/4 point if wrong)||No guessing penalty|
|No English grammar||English grammar tested|
|Math accounts for 50% of test/score||Math accounts for 25% of test/score|
When to prep?
The best time to prep is in the 3-4 months prior to an exam.
Most students will take the test for the first time in the spring of their junior year. (Some will take it earlier, December of junior year, if they are advanced in math.)
If you take it without prepping the first time, be willing to prep/practice over the summer for another try in the fall of your senior year.
Many students try both the SAT and the ACT and then retake the one they like better. A third try is sometimes done if scores are close to a threshold for acceptance at a particular college or for a scholarship.
SAT or ACT Test Prep is just that: it is preparation for a test.
It is meant as a review of topics and teaches strategies for successfully taking the test. Prepping is not the same as longer term tutoring in a subject and does not substitute for the learning that goes on in a class.
If supportive outside instruction is necessary for a student to be successful in class, a tutor should be arranged.
Practice is important for success.
When enrolled in any kind of prep class, it is important to remember that the time and effort you put into practice, outside of any “class” or “lesson” time is critical. You must commit to putting in the time and effort to practice the test in order to improve.
Where to prep?
There are several options depending on the needs and style of the learner and the financial resources of the family.
Anything from one-on-one tutoring to group classes to individual online instruction is available.
Price ranges are free to $3,600 or more, but averages around $1,000.
It is recommended, however, that every student do a diagnostic test to get an analysis of his/her strengths and weaknesses, to determine which test, the SAT or the ACT is a better fit, and which method of prep would work best.
You can check out test prep options listed on our webpage.