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by NYMetroParents Staff

Related: sat preparation, act preparation, college admission, tutors for entrance exams, college entrance exams, prep for standardized tests,

Former teachers, who now run a tutoring service in New Jersey and the five boroughs, explain the differences between the SATs and ACTs and which exam is best for your child.

What are the differences between the SAT and ACT exams?

sat and act preparation

The ACT is a subject-based exam that tests what the student is learning; it is not an aptitude test. SATs measure critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Certain subject topics vary between the ACT and SAT. The exams also differ in how they are graded. The ACT does not penalize incorrect answers. Additionally, you can take the ACT up to 12 times and submit the highest score to colleges.

When should students begin preparing for these exams?

While many think junior year of high school is the appropriate time to prepare students, they should be prepping in their sophomore year. Although test-taking strategies can be learned in high school, basics like reading comprehension and strong math skills need to be in place first.
Former teachers, who now run a tutoring service in New Jersey and the five boroughs, explain the differences between the SATs and ACTs and which exam is best for your child.

Which test should my child take?

Depending on the student's strengths and weaknesses, he may perform better on one or the other. Students should take several practice tests of each to determine which test they perform best on and to familiarize themselves with the types of questions. For example, the SATs have easy, medium, and hard questions all worth an equal amount. It's vital to answer as many of the easy and medium questions correctly and tackle the hardest ones if they have time. After determining which test the student performs best on, finding a tutor that focuses on that test can help maximize his score.

Which types of colleges look at which exam?

Twenty years ago, the ACT was required by coll-eges in the Midwest, while the SAT was the test most universities in the Northeast accepted. Now that either are acceptable, students have the advantage of choosing the test. Most colleges publish the test scores of the prior year's incoming freshman and this is a good resource to clue you in on the range of scores the particular college is accepting.

How are scores used in college admissions?

Test scores are critical for admission to compettive college and universities. Scores are designed to give college admissions officers a yardstick to measure students from different schools to compensate for differences in curriculum, quality, and grade inflation. The national average for these tests are 1500 on the SAT and 20-21 on the ACT. Scores should be considerably above average to be considered for the more selective colleges. Of course, the higher your score, the greater your options.

—Cheryl Karp and Debby Feldman are co-owners of A+ Advantage Tutors, which offers tutoring services in New York and New Jersey. Karp is a former New York-certified high school teacher and Feldman is an ESL specialist.


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