ACT Test Preparation Course
The ACT Test
The ACT® test assesses high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work.
The multiple-choice tests cover four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science.
The Writing Test, which is optional, measures skills in planning and in writing a short essay.
The complete ACT test takes just over 4 hours without the Writing Test, including administration instructions and breaks.
Actual testing time is 2 hours and 55 minutes, broken down as follows:
The ACT Writing Test adds an additional 30 minutes to the testing time. For more information about the ACT please visit www.actstudent.org So let’s do an in-depth comparison of the two tests.
Firstly, the two tests are quite different. They do, however, have a similar role in the US college admissions process. Both tests give college admissions personnel a benchmark that allows them to compare students from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. The tests are also designed to be realistic predictors of first-year academic achievement in college. The main comparative features of the tests are:
- The ACT tests English grammar; the SAT does not.
- The ACT math section tests trigonometry; the SAT math sections do not.
- The ACT includes a science reasoning test; the SAT does not.
- Apart from the timed essay the ACT is entirely multiple choice; the SAT has 10 student-produced response questions within one of its math sections.
- The essay component on the ACT is optional; on the SAT the essay component is compulsory.
- The ACT math section counts for one quarter of the exam; the SAT math section counts for one of three subject scores.
- The questions on the ACT tend to be more straightforward but some do require more advanced knowledge.
- The ACT often presents much more of a time challenge for many students. Unless you have an extra time accommodation you will need to decide if this feature presents a significant challenge for you.
- Taking the ACT may well exempt you from having to take three SAT II subject tests (find out if any of your target schools offer this benefit) – this could save you from much additional preparation time, testing fees and further anxiety.
- The SAT scores are cumulative which means that colleges receive your most recent score and up to six previous scores. You need only send your highest ACT score to the colleges of your choice.
- The SAT tests more difficult vocabulary than the ACT,
- The SAT includes a penalty for incorrect answers; the ACT does not.
- The SAT has an experimental section which does not count; the ACT does not.
- The SAT arranges questions in order of difficulty; the ACT does not.
- The actual test time of the ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes; the actual test time of the SAT is 3 hours and 45 minutes.
Should I do the ACT or SAT? Or Both?
So, do you know which test you are going to take yet? Still puzzled? At GK Consultants you can enrol in the Practice Testing Program which allows you to take frequent complete SAT or ACT practice tests. These tests are just like real SATs or ACTs and are administered in just the same way. By doing these practice tests a student starts to feel much more comfortable with the whole process. The completed tests are graded by the tutor and complete feedback is given at the next tutorial lesson. In this way you will be in a much more informed position about which test option is best for you: SAT only, ACT only or both the SAT and the ACT.
I have heard admissions officers and teachers talk about the similarities and differences between the ACT and the SAT in a variety of ways. A common theme is that the SAT is essentially a test of critical thinking and problem solving whereas the ACT is a much more curriculum-based test. In actual fact the contrast is not so clearly defined. For example, there are a significant number of questions on the ACT that require critical thinking skills and there are some questions on the SAT that require curriculum base knowledge. Only by doing the actual tests can a student really gain a realistic appreciation of the actual flavor of the tests.
It is vital that a student finds out from the colleges to which they are applying precisely what the requirements are in terms of standardized tests. Then a student can discuss the possible combinations with their school college advisor and their GK Consultants consultant.
What Strategy is Best?
So, to sum up, your overall strategy should be:
- Take both an ACT and an SAT practice test under actual test conditions such as offered by the GK Consultants Practice Testing Program.
- Review the scores with your tutor to identify your specific strengths and weaknesses.
- Decide with the help of your tutor if the ACT or the SAT is going to be clearly your best bet in terms of future test performance, or decide if taking both tests is your best choice.
- Ensure that you are clearly informed about the entrance requirements of your target colleges. Currently most colleges accept both – just make sure!
- Find out if you only take the SAT will any of your target colleges require you to also take three SAT subject (SAT II) tests.
- Once you have decided which option is best for you, work closely with your consultant in order to be comprehensively prepared for each test when the time comes.
- Most important – research these issues yourself so that you feel confident that you are able to make the most informed decision regarding your future. Seek out the best advice available to you. Talk to your teachers, your parents, your classmates, your college guidance counselor and if you’re lucky enough to have one: your educational consultant.