Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT continue to be important parts of entry requirements at most colleges. Despite the fact that some educators question their relevance and ability to truly measure a student’s aptitude, they continue to be widely used. They can also cause students a lot of grief if low scores prevent them from getting into the college or university program of their choice. Encourage the students you advise to find out whether or not the college or university program they want to join requires a standardized test as part of the admissions process, and then provide coaching tips and resources to aid with studying for and taking the test.

test takingWhich One to Take?

The SAT

Was developed in 1926, and is now administered by The College Board. It’s designed to assess how well a student will do in college. There are three sections; reading, writing and math. Historically, coastal colleges or universities have favored SAT scores while colleges or universities in the Midwest and Southeast have opted for the ACT.  Students should consider taking the SAT if they…

  • Did well on the PSAT (the preliminary test for the SAT, also used to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program)
  • Possess a fairly good vocabulary
  • Excel at grammar usage
  • Can think quickly and reason abstractly when solving math equations and formulas
  • Have good “test stamina” (the SAT is 20 minutes longer than the ACT)

The ACT

Has been around since 1959, and it was created as an alternative to the SAT. While the SAT measures general aptitude in verbal and reasoning abilities, the ACT is an achievement test that measures what a student has learned over the course of their education. The sections are Reading, Math, Science, English, and an optional Writing section. Students should consider the ACT if they…

  • Performed well on the PLAN (the PSAT equivalent for the ACT)
  •  Have stronger reading than vocabulary skills
  • Prefer to write argumentative essays rather than essays that recall exact facts and figures as evidence
  • Tend to perform poorly under pressure: Students can wait until they’ve taken the test several times, and send the best of these scores to the college or university they are applying to
  •  Are more academic than “test savvy”