Q & A for the SAT and ACT – Things You Need to Know

Important Upcoming Test Dates
ACT: Oct. 27, Dec. 8
SAT: Nov. 3, Dec. 1

We’ve captured the following information (The Choice) that asks and answers a lot of the most important questions that both students and parents have when it comes to the SAT and ACT tests. As you should already know, doing well on these tests is an absolute ‘must do’ when it comes to getting into the school of your choice. The point is not to be afraid of the tests, but to prepare for them. We’re here to help you do so. The answers are provided by Kathryn Juric, the vice president of the SAT program, and Jon Erickson, the president of the education division at the ACT.

Q. I’m confused as to which test I should take. The SAT, ACT, or both? Do colleges and universities prefer one exam over the other, or do the preferences vary based on the type of institution?

A. Mr. Erickson: All accredited American colleges and universities accept scores from either the ACT or the SAT without preference or prejudice.

Ms. Juric: Today, nearly all four-year undergraduate colleges and universities require a college-entrance exam like the SAT. We believe the SAT measures a student’s ability to apply the skills they have learned in high school, in turn demonstrating to admission counselors their college preparedness.

SKA: Note: Being able to think through and apply the knowledge you have been taught in High School is a critical skill that every student needs to be able to show. Not only for college or career development schools, but life in general. Just thought we’d throw in that little tibbit.

Q. What should a student do if she performs better on one exam than the other?

A. Ms. Juric: We strongly recommend that students take the SAT in the spring of junior year and again in the fall of senior year, as the majority of students who take the SAT twice improve their scores. For those students who decide to take each test once, we recommend that students use the SAT-ACT Concordance Table. Concordance tables are what college admission officers use to compare SAT and ACT scores.

Mr. Erickson: College is very important, so students should put their best foot forward during the admission process. (Sound familiar? – SKA) There are distinct differences between the two tests, and we think it’s a good idea for students to familiarize themselves with these differences before registering to take a test. For example, the ACT’s writing test is optional. In addition, the ACT includes a science test as well as an interest inventory that can help colleges understand more about the student.

Q. When is it O.K. to guess if you don’t know the answer? Please explain how wrong answers are scored on the PSAT, SAT and ACT.

A: Mr. Erickson: On the ACT, students are not penalized for incorrect answers; ACT scores are calculated based only on the number of questions answered correctly. If a student does not know the correct answer, they would be best served to eliminate the possible answers they know to be incorrect and then make their best choice from the remaining answers.

Ms. Juric: On the PSAT/NMSQT, the SAT and the SAT subject tests, one-quarter point is deducted for incorrect answers to multiple-choice questions, while no points are deducted if the answer is left blank. Since no points are deducted for leaving an answer blank, random guessing is not recommended on the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT or SAT subject tests. If you cannot eliminate any wrong answers, it is best to skip the question.

Q. I think I’m pretty smart, but I have trouble clearly capturing my answers or thoughts in writing. So I get a little nervous when it comes to writing essays. How important are they when it comes to the tests?

A: Ms. Juric: While the essay is the most widely discussed aspect of the writing section, multiple-choice questions account for 70 percent of the student’s score and the essay accounts for 30 percent. However is should be understood that The College Board believes passionately that writing is a critical skill for success in college, no matter what field of study the student is pursuing. The essay measures a student’s ability to think through an issue and articulate a point of view. Given that mean SAT writing section scores have declined each year since 2006, it is clear that we must do a better job preparing high school students for the challenges of college-level writing.

Mr. Erickson: The ACT writing test is designed to measure a student’s ability to make and articulate judgments, develop and sustain a position, organize and present ideas logically, and communicate clearly in writing. Students’ essays are graded using a holistic approach that looks at the overall impression of the essay’s total effect on the reader. Our research has shown that the combination of the ACT English test score and the ACT writing test score provides the best prediction of a student’s success in first-year college English composition courses. Looking at the whole array of language, writing, and critical thinking skills that are measured by the ACT gives us the best picture of a student’s overall writing ability

SKA: We trust that you’ve found the above information helpful. If so, please let us know. We have more coming so keep checking back.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: