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SAT vs ACT: Which One?

Educational

Published: 9/11/2021

Last Edited: 11/18/2021

Written by:

Krishna Batabyal

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Summer break is the end of the school year. We wait for it anxiously, and usually kick back and forget everything else. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s important to cool off, and take a break after the stressful school year we’ve all gone through. But it’s also important that we keep at it, and practice for things that are important for our futures, such as the SAT’s and ACT’s. Howdy folks, my name is Krishna, and throughout this piece, I’m going to showcase some ways you can study for the SATs/ACT over this summer.

Quick note before you read this; Lots of colleges and universities are becoming test optional, and the SAT and ACT themselves are purely optional. As such, these tests (and these tips by correlation) are not mandatory. However, I would highly recommend you to still do research on whether you believe taking either (or both) would be beneficial to you.

Decide what test you want to take, and understand the test.

As with anything, it’s important to take the first step, and these tests are no different. To start off, I’d highly recommend understanding the differences and similarities between the SAT and ACT.

These two tests have distinct similarities, and differences, so it’s important that you decide which one better fits your scenario, and what you think you can do. For example, the ACT has a science section, and the SAT doesn’t. They are both scored differently, but also cover similar mathematical and reading/writing concepts.

The SAT is scored by the number of questions you get right on the reading, writing, and the math (both sections of math combined), and they make different raw scores. The raw score is then translated through a score chart (which can be found here). Those scores are finally added up, giving you a score out of 1600. The ACT is similar in the manner it doesn’t penalize you for getting questions incorrect. Questions you get correct are scored and converted to raw scores. Then those are translated into 4 different scale scores, which in turn make a composite score (the average of the 4, rounded to the nearest whole number) out of 36.

Set goals, and understand where you are in terms of those goals.

These tests have a way of hounding you, and making you feel stressed, when in reality, all you need to do is set up a path for yourself, no matter how daunting it may seem at first.

For starters, take a practice test. This helps you:

  • Understand where you are, and how much practice is reasonable for you.
  • Figure out what you need to work on, (maybe you aren’t the best at graphs, or you really despise old english literature), and how to meaningfully work on it.
  • Get a feel for the test, to better simulate how you need to be feeling on test day.

Don’t know where to find a test? I gotchu!

Khan Academy offers free SAT prep here (with 10 free tests straight from the College Board).

The ACT provides a free study guide here (with a free practice test, that includes a writing prompt, and an in depth explanation about the ACT).

Make a plan.

Yeah yeah, you’ve probably heard this before, but planning is the best way to ensure you consistently improve on whatever you lack on. The other details I’ve mentioned earlier are things you need to consider in your overall plan, and what will ultimately decide how and what you do, for whatever you need to prepare for, whether that be reading Dickens (cool author dude) or memorizing the quadratic formula (the bane of my existence).

Personally, I’d recommend setting a time for certain days of every week, and having a goal. Whether that is finally understanding why a parabola mattered to the world so much, or achieving a new score on a practice test. Whatever the case may be, having a goal makes whatever you’re doing seem feasible for once.

Overall, the SAT and ACT both are tests of your grit, determination, and ability to put yourself in a mindset to prep for important tests. While they both ultimately suck ( I despise both), they both help you as a student more than you’d realise at face value. If you take anything from this... I want you to know that putting in the time, effort, and properly working towards whatever your target may be, is what will set you up for success on these tests.

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