Standardized Test Preparation

SAT vs ACT – What you need to know.


Which test is right for your student?


SAT testing dates


ACT testing dates

Sections – the revamped 2016 SAT has four different sections: Reading, Writing and Language, Math without a Calculator, Math with a Calculator and an optional essay. Sections – the revamped 2016 ACT has four different sections: English, Math, Reading, Science and an optional essay.
Math – the SAT has a math without a calculator section, so you should be able to do basic arithmetic on pen and paper.  The SAT also gives you all the formulas you need at the beginning of the math sections. The SAT generally tests a less diverse set of content knowledge than the ACT. Weaker at math but strong with basic arithmetic? The SAT may be a better choice for you. Math – the ACT allows you to use a calculator for the entire section, but does not give you a list of formulas so you will have to know how to calculate the area of a circle, etc. from memory. The ACT also tests a more diverse set of content knowledge, so you may see the very occasional question on logarithms, etc. which you would not see on the SAT. Stronger at math? The ACT may be a better choice for you.
Reading – the revamped 2016 SAT has eliminated many of the vocabulary questions and is now much closer to the ACT. Each test has a fair amount of reading comprehension questions, but the SAT also includes questions more heavily focused on vocabulary and word meaning comparison than the ACT. Reading – the ACT reading section has many reading comprehension questions and has a higher proportion of questions asking you to locate and remember details from the reading passage than the SAT.
Writing and Language – the English portion of the SAT has eliminated all of the vocabulary questions, but still emphasizes writing style and word choice of grammar and punctuation when compared to the ACT. English – the English portion of the ACT focuses slightly more on grammar and punctuation questions, so if this is your strong point, this might be the right test for you.
No Science – although the ACT does not test actual science concepts and focuses more on logic and critical reading, if reading graphs is a particular weakness of yours, you are better off with the SAT. Science -the ACT tests very, very few actual science concepts. This section focuses much more heavily on logic and reading comprehension, so if these are your strong points, this may be a better test for you.

Still not sure which test is best for your student? Call us at 650-394-6250 and we can talk about options or arrange to have your student take a practice ACT and a practice SAT and s/he can decide which test s/he prefers. 

When should you start studying?

For the best results, we recommend that your student start their test prep approximately two months before the actual test date. We do not offer test prep fewer than three weeks in advance of the test because we have not seen that such condensed prep is valuable enough for us to charge you for it. If your timing is this condensed, we recommend you choose a different date so your student has enough time to prepare. There are links to testing dates in the table above.

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