Few tests cause as much anxiety as the ACT and SAT. Unfortunately, far too many common misconceptions about these two tests result in students focusing on the wrong things and losing out on some terrific opportunities. Knowing the truth about the ACT and SAT tests is crucial to avoiding making mistakes that could cost you admission to the school of your choice.
# 1 – Scoring high on the ACT or SAT is your ticket to getting into any college you want
The ticket to getting into the college of your choice consists of several different components. The ACT and SAT scores are just one of the many factors that are taken into consideration when assessing admission applications. The other major components are your academic grades, extracurricular activities, personal essay, and letters of recommendation. In addition, factors such as your work experience (if any) and your leadership qualities are also considered. It is the combination of all of these factors that will get you into the college of your choice, not just your test scores alone.
A student who aces the ACT or SAT but has earned below standard high school grades may find it more difficult to get admission as compared to a student with lower test scores but outstanding academic grades.
This does not in any way mean that the test scores do not matter. They matter a lot, especially when deciding between two students who are equally qualified in all other respects. Colleges receive many more applications than they can take in, which makes the selection highly competitive. When deciding between two applications that are equally appealing, every little thing counts. Your application could get rejected simply because you scored a couple of points less than your closest rival.
Scoring high on the ACT and SAT is important but it’s not the ONLY thing that matters when it comes to getting into the college of your choice.
# 2 – Looking for the easier test? Choose the ACT
The SAT has earned a reputation for being one of the toughest tests to pass, which automatically implies that any other test you take will be easier. This includes the ACT.
There’s no truth to this at all. These are two completely different tests. Each one has a different testing focus and no one test is easier than the other. Moreover, all universities consider both tests equally.
If you are looking for an easier test, a better way to do this is to choose one that is a better fit for your skills and capabilities. You will score higher on the ACT if you are confident in your ability to answer questions on logarithms, charts, trigonometry, and other advanced math / science topics.
However, the SAT may be an easier test for you if your strengths include an advanced vocabulary and you are capable of thinking outside the box quickly and approaching ‘trick’ questions analytically.
#3 – Students need to take both tests for college admission
Every year hundreds of students sit for both the ACT and SAT tests. Some do it because they are under the misconception that both tests are a mandatory requirement for most colleges. Others take both tests because they believe it will double their chances of getting admission. Neither one is true. You do not need to take both tests.
As mentioned in #2, the best way to make a choice about which test to sit for is to play to your strengths. Pick one you know you will be more comfortable with and focus all your energies into acing that test.
#4 – Students who have high GPAs are sure to do well on standardized tests without studying or doing any practice tests
Everything about the ACT and SAT is completely different from tests that you take during school, so doing well on normal tests does not automatically mean that you will do well on the ACT or SAT.
The ACT and SAT are set and scored independently of any school curriculum, but invariably there will be some overlap with topics that are taught in schools. However, because the exact topics being taught may vary from one school to another, some students may find the first set of questions familiar while they struggle with the second set.
Another aspect of the ACT and SAT is that even when they cover topics you’ve studied in school, the questions are asked in such as way that they can seem unfamiliar. From the preparation to test-taking strategies and time constraints, standardized tests are completely different from high school tests and students need to prepare for them just as they would any other test. Scoring well in school tests is no reflection of how well you are going to perform in any standardized college entrance exam.
Whether you plan on taking the ACT or SAT, studying and doing practice tests will go a long way in helping you score high marks.
#5 – The best time to take the ACT or SAT is during the spring of junior year
The spring of junior year has become a popular time for high school students to take one of these tests but according to expert educators, the timing may actually be way off. For one thing, students need this time to prepare for the upcoming finals and AP exams and also to work on their extracurriculars. All of these are important but time-consuming activities and preparing for the college entrance tests invariably takes a backseat. This lack of preparation can seriously hurt students’ performance in the test, which is reflected in their low test scores.
Another huge disadvantage of leaving the college entrance tests for so late is that it leaves you with hardly any time to prepare and re-take the test if you feel you did not perform as well as you expected.
Experts suggest that it is better for students to start preparing and take the test a little earlier in the year. This gives you more time for improvements if you feel the need and it also gives you more time to focus on other end-of-year activities.