Standardized Test Preparation: Exploring the SAT and ACT

Posted by Sophie Pauze on 6/14/13 8:00 AM

ACT tutoring NYC

The summer before junior year in high school is a great time to dive into standardized test preparation. Any SAT tutor or ACT tutor will tell you that it’s much easier to prep over the summer than it is during the school year. Without extracurricular or academic distractions, your time spent studying will be more efficient and you can get the test over with early in the school year! 

Most people know that the ACT and SAT are used to evaluate students during the college admissions process. But are the differences between the two tests? I reached out to an ACT tutor and an SAT tutor and asked them to share their insights:

Let’s look at the primary differences between the ACT and SAT:

• The ACT includes a science-reasoning test; there is no science on the SAT.

• The ACT math section includes trigonometry; the SAT does not test knowledge beyond algebra 2 and geometry. 

• The SAT tests vocabulary much more than the ACT.

• The SAT has a guessing penalty; the ACT does not. 

• The ACT tests English grammar; the SAT does not. 

The Peterson’s website provides a nice comparison of both tests. Check it out!

There's a lot written about what types of students should take the ACT or SAT, or both. The recomendations below are common:

Consider the SAT if you…have a strong vocabulary…feel comfortable with tricky test strategy…excel at writing…shy away from math…

Consider the ACT if you…do well in science…dislike tests and test strategy…love the nitty-gritty of grammar…take advanced math courses…sitting for almost 4 hours is inconceivable…

The thing is that these suggestions are overly simplistic; they do not take into account a student’s particular aptitude or propensity for testing. Don’t shortchange the opportunity to shine on one of these important exams and take a diagnostic. Sitting for a practice SAT and a practice ACT is the best way to determine which test is right for you.

Sit for one or both of these practice tests to get accustomed to the test format and content, to get a sense of your baseline score, or to to identify a propensity for one of the exams.

• For the SAT, take this practice test on the College Board website. 

• For the ACT, take this practice test on the Peterson’s website.

Adhere to test-taking conditions in order to get a solid read on your baseline score:

• Work in a quiet place with no distractions.

• Time each section (do not take extra or extra-long breaks between sections).

• Follow the on-screen instructions.

Now, go for it! Once you’ve taken a practice test, reach out to a Cambridge Coaching tutor for a free consultation. One of our test prep tutors can help you analyze your score and reate a plan for your summer standardized test preparation. 

Click here to sign up for a free SAT consultation!

Tags: ACT, SAT