“SAT or ACT? Which test should I take?”

As Independent Educational Consultants, we are often asked to weigh in on this question. Since colleges accept both tests equally, we typically advise students to determine which test suits them best and prepare for that one. However for current sophomores, the answer is more complex. There are three options for the Class of 2017: old SAT (now through Jan 2016), new SAT (March 2016 and future test dates), and ACT with writing.

Test prep experts have been closely following the shifting landscape and analyzing the differences between the old and the new SAT. The following two blogs from Compass Education Group provide a detailed analysis of the options and their recommendations.

SAT and ACT Insights for class of 2017 Part 1

SAT and ACT Insights for class of 2017 Part 2

So what is our advice for the Class of 2017?

ACT with Writing: Prepping for the ACT may be the safest bet for current sophomores. There are ample practice tests available and tutors and test prep classes know the tests inside and out. Issues: The math on the ACT is typically more advanced than the math tested on the old SAT. You need to be able to work fast on the ACT as you have less time per question compared to the SAT.

Old/Current SAT: If you knocked your 10th grade PSATs out of the park, and you have time to do test prep either this school year or over the summer, and you can take the current SAT at least twice by January of 2016, then this test may be the test for you. Issues: you don’t hit your target score by Jan 2016 and need to prep for another test (either the new SAT or the ACT). Colleges want scores from new SAT (we heard this from one consultant, but have not heard widespread rumors of this being an issue).

New SAT: The new SAT is rumored to look more closely like the ACT, so if you plan on doing your testing later in your junior year, you can evaluate how you do on the 11th grade PSAT (new design) and compare that to a practice ACT. Make sure any SAT prep you do is using materials prepared for the newly designed test. Issues: You wait too long to begin your preparation. You prep using outdated materials.

Once you determine which test to take, here are some tips on how best to prepare.

Preparing for Standardized Tests

Decide if you do better learning in a group class or with one-on-one tutoring. Both are effective, but some kids do better in one setting or another.

Allow enough time to prepare. Most students do better when they have ample time to prepare. Allow at least three or four months of preparation before the test.

Figure out if you need and are eligible for extended time. We’ve had several clients improve their scores dramatically by getting the proper documentation to prove they need extended time.

Practice, Practice, Practice.  The more you practice taking the tests, the more comfortable you will be in a real setting. It’s just like prepping for a sport or rehearsing for a show.

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