I improved in math, and I now know what to be aware of when taking the test. Also, I liked that I could be myself and be comfortable around students and teachers, and I didn't feel hesitant about asking questions."

- Susan C. (Junior, Westwood High School)


1) Should I take the ACT or the SAT?
Both are equally accepted by most universities and colleges, so it is really up to the test takers which test they choose. Most students tend to score similarly on ACT and SAT (there is a chart that converts ACT scores to SAT scores that allows you to compare). Nevertheless, many people believe that one is easier than the other, because they test slightly different sets of skills. The test themselves do not differ in the level of difficulty; they are only perceived that way by students because of their individual strengths and weaknesses. For instance, if you are good at interpreting science reading passages, charts, and graphs, ACT might be relatively easy for you. On the other hand, if you have good critical thinking skills and are widely read, SAT might be a better option. I suggest taking both to see which one makes you feel more comfortable and score better.


2) What is the difference between ACT and SAT?
Generally, ACT is more straightforward, in terms of question types, compared to SAT, which means that the questions on the ACT tend to be less tricky than those on the SAT. Another difference is that the ACT Math section covers up to Pre-Cal, whereas SAT Math section only covers up to Algebra II. Also, unlike the SAT, ACT has a science section in which the test takers have to analyze science reading passages, graphs, and charts and answer questions based on the information given. Lastly, the Essay is optional for ACT unlike the SAT, but most colleges require you to take the essay portion of the ACT.

The following table summarizes the difference between the two tests.
Test Length 3 hours 25 minutes (including optional Writing Test) 3 hours 45 minutes
Test Structure 4 Test Sections (5 with the Writing Test): English, Math, Reading, Science, Writing (optional), Experimental Test (sometimes added and clearly labeled) 10 Sections: 3 Critical Reading, 3 Math, 3 Writing (including Essay), and 1 Experimental (unscored but included as a regular section)
Reading Reading Comprehension: 4 passages with 10 questions per passage Reading Comprehension: Sentence Completion questions and short and long passages with questions
Math Arithmetic, Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and Trigonometry Arithmetic, Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II
Science Analysis, interpretation, evaluation, basic content, and problem solving Science not included
Essay Last thing you do (30 min)
- Not included in composite score
- Topic of importance to high school students
First thing you do (25 min)
- Factored into overall score
- More abstract topic compared to that of ACT
Scoring Composite score of 1-36, based on average of scores from 4 tests
- 4 scores of 1-36 for each test
- Plus optional Writing Test Score of 0-12
Total score out of 600-2400, based on adding scores from 3 subjects
- 3 scores of 200-800 for each subject
- score of 0-12 for the Essay
Wrong Answer Penalty No penalty for wrong answers 1/4 point deduction for wrong answers (except for Math Grid-In questions)
Sending Scores History You decide which score is sent Your entire score history will be sent automatically unless the school honors Score Choice, which allows you to pick the scores you want to send
Registration website : www.actstudent.org
Phone : 1-319-337-1000
website : www.collegeboard.com
Phone : 1-866-756-7346


3) When should I take the SAT/ACT/ SAT Subject Tests?
You should take these tests only if you are ready to take them. Most professionals advise against taking college entrance exams without having preparation for them. On the other hand, taking the test more than 3 times is also not a good idea. If you plan on taking the SAT or the ACT, try to take one in the Fall or Winter of Junior Year, one in the Spring of Junior Year, and the last one in the Fall of Senior Year. Just make sure that you do not wait till your Senior year to take your first SAT or ACT exam. The best time to take the SAT Subject Test is right after completing an AP Class on the particular subject. For instance, if you plan on taking the SAT Subject Test for Chemistry, take one in May or June, after you have finished the entire course. This means that if you have completed an AP course, you should be in a good shape to take the SAT Subject Test on that particular subject. Check the test dates for each Subject Tests and plan accordingly because some are only offered once or twice a year. In addition, try to avoid October and November test dates because curves for these dates are generally higher than those of the other dates. The reason is that most Seniors take their last SAT or ACT exams in the fall after having studied all summer. When you are taking the SAT or ACT on these dates, you are competing with many Seniors who are trying to improve their scores for the one last time.


4) How many SAT Subject Tests should I take?
Most colleges require 2-3 Subject Tests while some do not require them at all. However, to be considered competitive, students should take at least 3 Subject Tests and try to score above 700 on all of them. Though not as important as the SAT Reasoning test, these scores do weigh in on the admissions decisions, especially for admission into the particular majors for which the applicant is applying.

dotLine.gif 5) What do colleges look for in their prospective students?
This is a question that cannot be answered briefly because there are so many factors these colleges consider. However, the most important factors they consider are the following in order of priority:
1. GPA & ranking
2. SAT Reasoning Test score or ACT score
3. AP/IB score and SAT Subject Test score
4. Extracurricular activities
5. Awards and recognitions
6. College admission essays
7. Recommendation letters from a counselor and teachers
8. High school ranking and reputation
9. Resume
10. Special circumstances including family income

The first three are the most important factors for any college. The rest can vary from college to college who weighs them differently. One thing to remember is that the colleges consider the entire application, not just bits and pieces of it. They take into account all aspects of the application and make their decision based on everything they review.


6) What are the advantages of Early Action and Early Decision?
I highly encourage all my students to apply for Early Action/Decision. Here is why:

1. Your chance of acceptance can significantly increase and, in some cases, double for the most competitive schools, such as the Ivy Leagues.
2. You are notified of the admission decision much sooner than regular decision applicants. You can hear back as early as December. The regular decision notification is usually not sent out till March.
3. Since you get your application in early, if something is missing from your application, you can supply them before it’s too late.
4. Your senior year will be much more peaceful and enjoyable.

The first round of Early Action/Decision deadline is November 1. This means that you need to have everything ready (including the test scores) to submit your completed application by the end of October. The latest SAT you can take for Early Action/Decision is the October test.



Is GPA or SAT score more important in college admissions?


2010.08.16 17:19:00

Both are equally important, but if the college admission officers were to choose between a student who has a high GPA and a low SAT score and another student who has a low GPA and a high SAT, they would most likely pick the first student. Here is why:

A high GPA takes 3 years of academic discipline to build. This involves great time management, self-discipline, dedication, and focus over a long period of time. Basically, a GPA reflects not only a student's academic competence and intelligence but also his or her character. Therefore, it can predict how successful a student will be in college more accurately than an SAT score can.

Although SAT scores can measure your academic aptitude, they do not differentiate between a lazy student and a diligent student. For example, an SAT score of 1900 could mean that you worked really hard for 2 years to bring up your score from 1600, or it could mean that you are just a smart test taker who walked into take the exam without any preparation. 

So manage your GPA well. If you are struggling in a subject, don't wait till it's too late. Ask your teacher for help or get a tutor to help you out because all it takes is one failed test to bring down your accumulative GPA. In addition, take as many challenging courses (e.g., AP or IB level courses) as you can and do well in those courses, and colleges will be surely impressed.

If you need tutoring in any subject, we have excellent tutors waiting to help you ace the next test you take. Call 512.968.7571 to register and set up your first appointment to academic success!

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