Time For The Test
Now that junior year is in full swing, it is time to think about college entrance exams. The big question from our parents always is which exam to take, the SAT or ACT test. You may get a different answer depending on where you live. Here in the Midwest, the ACT test is the predominant exam while on both coasts the SAT is still more common. The bottom line is that all domestic universities equally accept both exams.
Your student can make the choice to take one or both of these exams as a means to entering their college of choice. While both are similarly difficult, there is variation between the two. Knowing the differences can help your child make the right choice.
The ACT test is a test that measures the quantity and content of information students retain. This exam is made up of 215 questions, with an option to complete an essay. It is meant to be a true measure of what your student has learned in school. In our opinion, this is somewhat deceiving. There is definitely content to be learned and reviewed for the English and Math sections, while the Reading and Science Reasoning sections focus much more on skills, content and data analysis respectively. Fortunately, the ACT does not require your student to study a massive stack of vocabulary flash cards.
The essay, which requires an argument and counter-argument, typically covers issues that are considered controversial. The science portion includes questions covered in earth science, chemistry, biology and physics, but truly does not require any prior science knowledge. This section is much more of a logic and reasoning test. The math portion includes general Algebra, some Geometry and a little trigonometry. The English portion of this exam is similar to the SAT but tends to focus more on punctuation and grammar than vocabulary.
This test is a good choice for those who perform better when the difficulty of the questions remains at a constant degree. In Illinois, almost all high school juniors take the ACT exam as part of the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE). For this reason, most schools in our area integrate some ACT prep into their curriculum.
The SAT test challenges a student's ability to reason and checks their verbal understanding. This test is made up of 140 questions and includes a mandatory essay. The essay for this exam is considered a little less intimidating than that of the ACT test. The SAT essay covers topics the student is more familiar with, such as history or personal experiences. This exam requires an average of three hours and forty-five minutes to complete. The questions get more difficult as the student progresses. The SAT also stresses vocabulary to a much greater degree than the ACT, requiring that large pile of flash cards. In addition, unlike the ACT, the SAT penalizes students for mistaken answers, making guessing a much more serious prospect. All in all, at Chicago Academic, we believe that improving on the SAT is more difficult than improving on the ACT for most students, especially if your student has not been reading the New York Times since early childhood.
A Tutor Can Help
Preparing for the college admission exams can be stressful. There are many options for finding help. First, you can visit the bookstore and buy one of the many test prep books published by the national companies. The books can be a helpful guide to navigating the skills and strategies essential to succeeding on the ACT or SAT.
A student can go a step further and enroll in a test prep class, wherein they will be instructed in a small to large group as to how best to study and prepare for these exams.
If a class is not personal enough for a student, the next option is private, individual tutoring for the exams. This last option allows an expert instructor to customize and personalize the test prep experience for a student's specific needs.
Chicago Academic offers our families the opportunity to partake in any of these options. We understand that, in addition to every student being different, every family's budget is also different. We work hard to customize a program for each student believing that we can help with almost any budget.