Monday, February 2, 2009

Sitting out the SATs pt. 2

Things have developed. I am now not only skipping SAT prep, I’m skipping the SATs completely in favor of the ACTs. For East coast schools, the ACTs are less common and therefore less trusted than the SATs. However, almost every college in the country will accept the ACTs in place of the SATs. Neither one is a “better” test. However, many people who find themselves struggling with the SATs score extremely high on the ACTs.

The ACT is only around three hours long, as oppose to the six-hour SAT. This is an advantage for those who have trouble focusing for a long time. The ACT is also divided by subject and does not jump back and forth like the SAT, a plus for people who have trouble rapidly switching between the writing, reading and math sections. The ACT also includes a science section, but you do not need a lot of outside science information. It mainly tests your ability to interpret graphs and tables and apply given information to specific scenarios.

The math section of the ACT is not necesarily harder or easier than the SAT, but it is different. For the SATs, the key to doing well on the math section is familiarizing yourself with the wording of the test, the tricks they use against you and the strategies you can use to decipher their questions. The ACTs, on the other hand, really measure your knowledge and learning of math without trying to mess you up. ACT math questions sound more like questions your teacher might give, and you can answer them by thinking of topics you learned in school, rather than strategies you learned in a test prep class.

The reading section of the ACT is very similar to the SAT, though most people seem to find it easier. There is also an optional writing section, but it is recommended (and required by many colleges) that you take it.

Clearly I am bias because I scored much higher on the ACT than the SAT, but everyone is different. I would just like to remind any fellow SAT-strugglers out there that you have another option. The best thing to do is take both practice tests, and see which one you do better on. (Since the scores are not measured in the same way, it’s hard to do a direct comparison. To determine which one you scored higher on, you can check the ACT and SAT requirements of colleges you are interested in and see which required test score you come closer to). Good luck!