While the SAT and ACT are both entrance exams, they are both entirely different when it comes to the content that they are testing the students on. Considering that a typical high school student has a packed schedule, it is advisable to only take up one test over the other. Preparation and studying would take up double the amount of time and money. Keep in mind that it could also potentially lead to lower scores on both tests.
But first, let’s understand what the SAT and ACT entail.
The College Board administers the SAT, which is a standardized test that is broadly recognized for admissions in the United States. It is a three hour long multiple-choice test with two sections: Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The total score for the SAT is 1600. In order to ease your way into the ivy leagues, it is highly recommended to ensure that your SAT score is above 1450. Unfortunately, the average score is only 1060. From this, we can tell that the SAT takes a lot of practice, time and energy to secure a good score.
The ACT is a standardized test administered by the ACT Inc that is widely recognized for admissions in the United States. The ACT has a total score of 36 points. It consists of English, Maths, Science and Reading sections. The ACT writing component is not a part of this. It has its own total score (12 points) and only consists of English and Reading. This is known as an ELA score (English Language arts). The duration of the ACT writing component is 40 minutes, and you are recommended to write over a page. Tight, right?
Some students might think the more, the better. They might think that it’s impressive to be juggling various things at once. It’s not. You should aim for a great SAT/ACT score rather than two average scores. It’s always quality>quantity. However, there are certain reasons why students may choose to take up both tests.
- If you have a lot of time on your hands and are equally good at both tests. Let’s say that your strengths and weaknesses are similar when it comes to both the SAT and ACT. Considering that you also have a lot of time on your hands—whether it may be from starting way ahead or having done a lot of school work in advance—you will be able to take up both. In case one test does not go badly, there is a good chance that the other one goes well.
- While one university favours the SAT, the other favours the ACT. While this is not the case anymore, if you have done your research and taken a look at the statistics of accepted students and the tests they’ve done, then perhaps you’ve noticed a preference. Even though this may not actually be significant, you might want to play it safe. However, if this is your sole reason for taking up both tests, I would recommend against it.
Here’s how you can prepare for the SAT and ACT simultaneously:
1.) Set a target goal for yourself. When trying to achieve your target score, you must answer these questions first:
Do you think you can reach your target score if you take the test now or later? If you have a target score in mind, take a few practice tests and try to assess yourself to see if your score reaches your ideal score.
Are you well prepared? If you are confident that you will acquire your target score, go ahead and take it as soon as possible! If you are not, then take time to prepare, practice multiple tests and go into that examination hall with confidence and I’m sure you will do amazing.
The secret to multitasking is that it isn’t actually multitasking. It’s just extreme focus and organization. – Joss Whedon
2.) Create a schedule… and stick to it
Spend 60% of your time on the test you’re better on, or an even higher percentage if you’re studying more overall. There are tons of topics to learn for the SAT and ACT and a lot of practice is required to ace it. Creating a schedule can help you be more organized and ensure that you have covered everything necessary and beyond. With school and extracurriculars, it is absolutely essential to fix a routine and stick to it. Remember, you will have to start way in advance.
3.) Discover your weaknesses
As you will be taking up two tests, it’s best not to go through all of the content. Instead, just focus on your weaknesses rather than wasting time on what you are already good at. Time is of the essence. Don’t spend time learning and practising the topics that you are already familiar with. Especially when it comes to the math sections, most of the topics have already been dealt with at school. Therefore, to allocate your time efficiently, focus on the topics or sections that you struggle with most, whether it be algebra or the history text in reading.
4.) Remind yourself everyday of why you need to achieve your target score. Keeping yourself motivated is one of life’s many challenges, regardless of the task at hand. There are many ways to overcome feeling demotivated.
- Reward yourself
- Study with a friend
- Spend time practising areas you are well versed with: this gives you a bit of a confidence boost, allowing you to attempt other areas of the test.
5.) Practice is key.
Take full-length practice tests regularly. The best and most efficient way to get a top score is by taking up practice tests. Once you have familiarized yourself with the structure and content of the test, it is time for you to take your pencil and start shading in some answers. When you do this, you start to understand the type of questions that could come your way and the way the tests are structured. It also allows you to identify your weaknesses so that you could focus on them more and turn them into strengths. Furthermore, practising the SAT and ACT allows you to become more time-efficient and tells you which areas you need to spend more time focusing on. It can be a little difficult to finish it within the time constraint. Hence, practising allows you to be better, even if it is only by a minute each time you take it.
Further Reading: College Board