SAT VS. ACT

Should my child take the SAT or the ACT? What’s the difference?

The current SAT, which debuted in March 2016, bears a much greater similarity to the ACT than did previous versions of the SAT. As such, the differences in content are minimal, though the ACT has a Science section (which mostly involves reading graphs and summaries of experiments but does at times require some basic science knowledge) and contains a few more advanced Math concepts than does the SAT. Virtually every college accepts either test for admission, so there is very little point in taking both. We highly recommend picking one test and sticking with it (turning to the other only as a last resort), rather than spreading yourself thin across two tests that serve the exact same purpose.

 

Why do you focus primarily on the SAT?

As stated above, the SAT and ACT are quite similar these days, but two main reasons speak to focusing on the SAT. First, students have already been primed for the SAT by taking the PSAT junior year (and, in many cases, sophomore year and even freshman year). As such, they have already been exposed to its format, timing, and scoring, so there’s less unfamiliarity to overcome. Second, and perhaps more important, the timing on the SAT is far more generous than the timing on the ACT. For example, the two tests feature nearly-identical Writing sections, but the SAT gives 35 minutes to answer 44 questions, whereas the ACT gives 45 minutes to answer 75 questions—only 10 more minutes for an additional 31 questions (forcing students to work 25% faster than on the SAT). Similarly, the SAT Math portion affords students 38% more time per question than the ACT Math portion. Because speed is a great problem for many anxious test-takers, we highly recommend starting with the SAT.

 

Do you offer any ACT preparation?

Yes, in certain locations! Our “ACT Booster Course” is offered to students who have already completed our SAT program and still wish to pursue the ACT. Because the two exams test many of the same concepts and are vulnerable to many of the same techniques, our SAT course effectively prepares students for roughly 75% of what they will see on the ACT. To cover the additional 25%, we offer a 4-week ACT Booster Course designed to catch students up to speed on the extra material, including the Science section and the more advanced Math concepts.

We do not run ACT courses for new students, as our philosophy is that it makes more sense to start with the SAT, which covers less material and offers more generous timing. (See “Why do you focus primarily on the SAT?” above.