The SAT and ACT

The GMAT is my favorite test, but kids are my favorite students, so I love tutoring the SAT and ACT. Few things are more rewarding to me than watching a kid develop confidence about or get really good at something they previously found frustrating or difficult. Kids are sponges, especially when the right teacher can get them excited about the subject, instill confidence in their abilities, and get them excited about seeing their own progress. I love seeing a student go from "I hate standardized tests" or "I study so hard and I just don't get it" to "OMG, I never thought I could get a score like that!"

Work with THAT DUDE, and let's get you there!

I Wrote A Book!

I'm excited to have penned my first book about SAT Reading. It draws from experience teaching Reading for the GMAT, LSAT, MCAT-Verbal, GRE, SAT and ACT, each of which emphasizes different facets of reading. I can assure that you'll find Reading questions much easier once you learn the nuances of reading for standardized tests.

Should you take the SAT or ACT?

Almost every school that uses a standardized test as part of its admissions review will accept either the SAT or the ACT. So which one should you take? There are dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of articles, blog posts, YouTube videos, and cave wall etchings about the pros and cons of each test. Here's THAT DUDE's take.

The types of content and thinking on the two tests is reasonably similar, but there are few key differences. Here are some, in rough order of importance:

  • Math

    • Math accounts for 50% of the score on the SAT but only 25% on the ACT, so students who have stronger mastery of verbal concepts often score better on the ACT because it weights their strengths more heavily.

    • So, if I'm not good at math, I should definitely take the ACT? Not so fast. The ACT includes some more advanced math topics that aren't on the SAT, like tougher Algebra II and Trigonometry concepts, so students who have completed those subjects may shine on the ACT. The ACT also generally has more Geometry questions than the SAT does, and the questions tend to be more calculation based than those on the SAT, some of which require much more reasoning. So, students who tend to succeed because they put one foot in front of the other and follow instructions may score better on the ACT while those who are more creative, logical, out-of-the-box math minds may score better on the SAT.

    • There's a no-calculator section on the SAT as well as grid-in questions. The ACT allows calculators on all questions and is 100% multiple-choice. The calculators bit might be a factor for some students, but the no-calculator section on the SAT really only includes questions on which you probably wouldn't use a calculator, anyway, so it's not a big deal. Far more important is that the SAT has questions that aren't multiple choice and require you to grid-in you answers instead. These questions make it impossible to employ some of the most powerful test-taking techniques that rely on using the answer choices to help solve the problem. On grid-in questions, you've got to just be able to work through the math.

  • Reading Comprehension

    • Reading comprehension on the ACT tends to be a bit more straight-forward compared to that on the SAT, which can be more nuanced. The SAT is more likely to offer multiple reasonable answer choices and ask test-takers to choose the best one; answer choices on the ACT tend to be more distinct and straight-forward. Everyone struggles sometimes with getting down to two answer choices and then seeming to "always pick the wrong one." If you have a severe case of this problem, it's not as frequent on the ACT.

    • So the ACT reading comprehension is easier? Not so fast. The reading passages on the ACT tend to be longer, so if reading speed is a big issue for you but you're great at reasoning through answer choices, the SAT might be the better fit. The questions on the ACT also tend to lean toward big-picture concepts (main point, author's tone, etc.) whereas the SAT has a higher percentage of questions that focus on a specific paragraph or word.

  • Science Reasoning

    • This section type only appears on the ACT.

    • So if I'm bad at science, I should go for the SAT? Not so fast. The science section on the ACT requires almost zero outside science knowledge; it relies instead on the student's ability to reason through information provided. In my experience, kids who are really good at distilling what matters from a text or who enjoy thinking through theoretical problems tend to do great with ACT science regardless of their math/science backgrounds. It's about how you think, not about what you know.

Ugh, THAT DUDE, would you please just tell me which one is easier?!? Which one should I take?!?

Absolutely!! The answer is: BOTH!! At least to start. Take one of each and then we will be able to analyze which test fits best for the way you think and your individual strengths and weaknesses. At that point, we focus on ONE and fine tune your approach to that one test type. Ready to start working on getting the best score you can get?