A few weekends ago, my toes were tapping to the rhythm of an August Caramoor jazz concert and the fading sunset and cooler breezes suddenly made me aware of the nearness of fall. And fall meant that higher education choices would soon loom before so many students. How to best prepare students for the SAT v. ACT choices? Here are a few myths debunked.
Myth #1: The layouts of SAT and ACT are similar.
FACT: Layouts are very different and may affect student’s performance.
The SAT has 10 sections: Three Math, three Reading, three Writing and one Experimental. The pie chart represents each section's length in minutes, on the SAT: SAT math is 33 1/3% of the exam. The SAT score is reported in three parts, Critical Reading, Math and Writing.
The top score is 2400.
Total time = 3 hours, 45 minutes.
The ACT has four sections. Each section yields one score (Each section's highest score=36). Content: Math, Reading, English and Science. There is an optional writing section. The second pie chart shows the length of each ACT section, in minutes. Once you complete a section (i.e., math), you will not be asked any more math questions for the rest of the ACT. This is a relief for some students.
Top cumulative score is 36.
Total time = 2 hours, 55 minutes
Myth #2: SAT Prep courses really don’t work.
FACT: The truth is, they do work as long as a student is willing to put in the time and effort. It is important to set your goals realistically, know your coach/teacher, and how much time you can put into studying. There are shortcuts, learned with a good tutor. For instance, a more powerful vocabulary can be acquired—with determination—in as little as two months, studying words roots, or through customized drills.
With prep courses, students who study consistently for 10-12 weeks or more, may see a 200-275 point or greater increase in total score. And a 2-4 point average increase on ACT scores.
Myth #3: If I dislike reading comprehension, I should take the ACT.
FACT: ACT Science and Reading require very fast reading. The Science section is 35 minutes, and contains seven passages; that means five minutes per passage, including questions. It’s a very fast run... A similar challenge exists for the Reading passages. This is NOT a test for the slow-ish reader.
Myth #4: Test prep is the only thing that will help my score.
FACT: Not true! There are lots of ways that a student can improve his/her score. Coaches recommend the following, to increase both SAT and ACT skills.
- Read challenging books and magazines (NY Times, National Geographic, Economist);
- Try a vocabulary builder, such as Hot Words for SAT by Carnevale;
- Learn a foreign language to boost your writing and analytic skills!