Testing My Patience: Preparing for the ACT or SAT

As you may have already heard, the June SAT scores were released and caused quite an uproar. Students found that they missed fewer questions than on previous tests but received lower scores.  The reason is that SAT tests are curved and this exam was easier than earlier versions. This allowed many students to have extremely strong raw scores, causing the curve to be steeper than usual.  

What is the lesson to learn from the June SAT? The degree of difficulty and curve will vary from test date to test date, which is one reason that we recommend that students take the SAT or ACT more than once.  This is also why it’s important to start the college admissions preparation process around your junior year, as it allows you to fully prepare for the ACT or SAT.

At Simply Admissions, we suggest that students begin the process by taking a practice full-length ACT and SAT test. Often students score higher on one test and having both scores allows an informed decision to be made about which test the student should focus on.  

What is the difference between the ACT & SAT?  Both tests are used to assess how well the student is prepared for college, specifically in the areas of reading, writing, and math.  The ACT also has a science section, which is meant to evaluate the student’s data analysis, scientific reasoning and interpretation skills. Students often think they will need to recall scientific facts and theories in this section, which is not the case.

Neither test is “better” and colleges truly do not have a preference.  Therefore, the choice depends on the student’s preferences and skill set.  

How many times should I take the ACT or SAT?  Once the student decides which test to take, the studying begins! The amount of preparation time needed will depend on the student’s needs and diagnostic test scores. When creating testing schedules at Simply Admissions, we recommend that students take the exam 2-3 times.  This allows the student to take advantage of superscoring and optimize their study efforts. After 3 tests, students tend to stop seeing a noticeable score improvement and their time is usually better spent elsewhere.

What is superscoring?  Superscoring is when colleges take the highest section scores students received across multiple test dates to create the highest possible composite score. This can be done for the ACT and SAT. Colleges may choose to superscore only the ACT or SAT, or both.  It’s important to note that many colleges do superscore and it should definitely be considered when creating a student’s testing schedule.

Standardized testing can be a frustrating and tedious part of the college admissions process. However, it’s important to remember that it’s only one part of the student’s overall application. Additionally, starting to prepare early allows students (and parents!) to minimize pressure and stress.