A Few Thoughts About The SAT and ACT

The SAT will be administered tomorrow.  I’ve assembled a little bit of information about the SAT and ACT into this one post with some downloadable documents.

SAT gender time graphicJuniors can take the SAT several times between now and when their college applications are submitted this fall (UC and Cal State Applications are submitted/due in 31 weeks, many out-of-state and private college applications are submitted/due in 35 weeksbut who’s counting?).  The SAT will be offered again on June 1 (click here to register before May 7th), and then again on October 5 and November 2.

The ACT is a different style of test, with different substance and a different pace.  This flyer (click below) tells you a little bit about the differences (Eureka Review is affiliated with the Princeton Review here in Los Angeles – call me if you want to discuss working with them as I have a good relationship with them), and the bottom of the flyer has a correlation chart that shows you comparable SAT and ACT scores.  The ACT is offered June 8, and then September 21 and October 26 (click here to register for the ACT).

SAT vs. ACT with Score correlation chart 

ACT - Math

This next document  (click below) is an explanation of which colleges use the SAT in what way – ie which colleges “superscore.”  If you don’t know what that means, it means that colleges will take your best Critical Reading score and your best Math score, even if you don’t get them at the same sitting of the test.  Some colleges do this, and some colleges will use the highest sitting.  Others use variations of this (I learned earlier this week about some colleges that “super-duper-score,” combining SAT and ACT sections!).  As always, call or e-mail me if you have any questions.

SAT Score Use List from the College Board

ACT - EnglishFinally, a word about perfection.  Very few students achieve a perfect 800 score on any of the sections of the SAT (or a perfect 36 on any of the ACT sections).  Just under 0.5% of the over one and a half million students who took the SAT last year scored 800 on the Critical Reading section, even fewer scored 800 on the Writing, and just under 0.7% aced the Math section (click here for full stats; scroll down to the section called “SAT Scores.”).  The test is meant to be hard, and questions are worded to make you guess incorrectly.  Students should not feel that any standardized test, including the SAT, ACT, SAT Subject tests, or AP tests, are a complete test of their intelligence.  They are just a barometer that colleges use, in different ways, to determine performance.

I recommend to most of my juniors that they take a spring SAT or ACT, or both, and then prep over the summer to take one or both again in the fall.  The truth is, for most colleges, grades matter more, as they measure how you did over four years, instead of just one day.  Keep that in mind, keep your grades up, and keep yourself from stressing out over tests!

1 thought on “A Few Thoughts About The SAT and ACT”

  1. I’d like to add a bit of disagreement to the Eureka flyer. It seems to be biased toward taking the SAT in the way they describe the intellect behind the exam and who thinks they matter. There are other points of view that will tell you that the ACT is, in fact, used and appreciated back East and that it’s not a test focused on memorization of high school facts, but is in fact a great test if you are a great reader. The science sections are more about reading and analyzing data tables than knowing science. Some test are just better suited for some students. If you can read and process and analyze well and you want less math and less punishment, you should try ACT. My creative, out of the box son ended up loving the ACT (as much as one can love a standardized test) way more than the SAT because he said “it’s straightforward, they’re not wasting as much of my time trying to trick me.” After his Jr. year of messing about with SAT exams and courses, he decided to do a Princeton Review Summer ACT boot camp approach that met on weekends. In October of his Sr. yr, he took the ACT and his comparative scores just cracked us up. They were, based on the equivalency charts, suddenly showing him at what could have been a 2,000+ SATer with his composite 30 ACT score. He aced the reading with a perfect 36. His math and sciences were in the high 20s. We’re talking about a 200 point difference comparatively overall, let alone in individual categories. Guess whose test scores he put on all his applications, even the schools who don’t even care about scores anymore? You can take free practice tests online and at local libraries to feel out what works best for you and then decide who to pay to get you through to the finish line. After all, it is a game.


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