We get many questions from parents about our nationally recognized college entrance exam classes that prepare students for the SAT and ACT. We offer this overview as well as a comparison chart to help you decide which test to take and when, and how Saturday Academy’s in-person group test prep classes taught by experienced math and language arts instructors can help you student maximize their scores. Our students have shared post-class score increases of 150 points or more on the SAT.
While some colleges do not require scores from the SAT or the ACT, most do. Increasingly, students have been taking both the SAT and the ACT. Students are advised to take the tests--one or both--in spring of their Junior year, and again in fall of their Senior year if possible. Test scores are often used to award merit-based financial aid, including scholarships, which is why some students choose to take both. Admissions committees typically prefer to have as much information about a student as possible, another reason many students take both tests--and the optional writing section. While many schools are dropping the essay requirement, others require or recommend it. It’s important to research this as you cannot take the essay section separately from the rest of the test.
Similarities Between the Tests
Previously the tests differed significantly, but the SAT was revamped in 2016 to more closely match the ACT. Both tests include math, language arts, and science, though subjects are integrated into each test differently (this is where one test might suit a student better; read more on the differences below). Each test offers an additional optional essay writing section. While total testing time varies slightly, both tests run approximately three hours--and about 45 minutes more if you opt to take the optional essay. Neither test penalizes test-takers for incorrect answers; the score is based on correct answers (this is why it’s very important to at least guess on every question). Both testing companies allow you to send your best score to colleges, not just your most recent score (but check with the college; some require you to send scores from all of your tests). For all their similarities, the ACT and SAT differ in some key ways.
The ACT Test
The ACT is known for aligning more closely with curriculum taught in schools. It has a separate science section, though it does not go in-depth. Rather, the section is chiefly used to measure a student’s information literacy skills. (Information literacy is essentially the ability to know when information is needed, and how to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the information.) The ACT is lighter on algebra than the SAT, but includes more geometry and trigonometry. This test also permits the use of calculators throughout the math portion of the test, unlike the SAT. Additionally, all questions are multiple choice; there are no “grid-in” or student-produced questions (open-ended responses). With regard to language arts, including reading and english, it’s a toss-up. The ACT offers less time for these portions of the test and does not give line number references in the questions, so students may have to spend more time re-reading passages to answer questions. The optional essay is opinion-based (unlike the literary analysis emphasis on the SAT); students are expected to evaluate and analyze a topic of relevance to humanity and make a case for their stance. One perk of taking the ACT is that its score report also includes a student profile outlining specific areas of strength and opportunities for improvement. Even better, it sends students advice about education and career options based on their test results. A final consideration is that the ACT contains more questions, but allows a bit less time; this breaks down to students having just 49 seconds per question. The score range for the ACT is from 1 to 36.
The SAT Test
While the ACT may give a slight edge to students who are stronger in social sciences and language arts backgrounds, the SAT favors students who are stronger in math. About 40% of the test covers proficiency in math skills. Students may not use calculators for part of the math section. Additionally, the SAT math section includes a number of questions that are not multiple choice (“grid-in” or student-produced responses). The other portion of the SAT is Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. Unlike the ACT, the SAT questions often provide line numbers to help students refer back to the passage to find answers. However, there is a strong emphasis on evidence-supported answers that require high-level thinking; these questions also build on each other. However, students have a bit more time per question on the SAT. As with the ACT, there is an optional essay section; the SAT essay is based on literary analysis, not opinion. While the SAT does not contain a separate science section, it contains science-based information literacy questions throughout the test. The SAT clocks in at three hours for the required sections, giving students an average of 70 seconds per question (this varies by section). The score range for the SAT is from 400 to 1600.
Why Take Saturday Academy’s Test Prep Classes
Saturday Academy’s SAT, ACT (and PSAT) classes are in-person group classes which cover diagnostics (figuring out which areas to focus on), content-area instruction, and test-taking strategies. Students have the opportunity to learn from two instructors who can answer student questions with immediate responses and address their individual needs. The group setting of our test prep classes is often more comfortable (and definitely more affordable) than one-on-one tutoring sessions. Our SAT and ACT Prep classes are taught by experienced instructors who are specialists in math or language arts as well as test prep. The optional essay portion is covered briefly. Students receive a test prep book with several practice tests, tips for test taking strategy, and content area information.
In addition to being well-priced compared to other in-person classes (not to mention private tutors!), Saturday Academy also offers generous financial aid through a very simple, two-question mini-form built right into the registration process. We are committed to leveling the playing field and helping all students succeed.
For more information, visit our College Prep page.
You can read more about how Saturday Academy’s SAT and ACT Prep classes compare with other programs and see a comparison chart that summarizes the differences between the two tests.
Lecocq, V. (2019). Why Take the ACT? 9 Important Reasons. [online] Blog.prepscholar.com. Available at: https://blog.prepscholar.com/why-take-the-act [Accessed 21 Aug. 2019].
Studypoint.com. (2019). ACT vs SAT: Key differences between the ACT and SAT. [online] Available at: https://www.studypoint.com/ed/act-vs-sat/ [Accessed 22 Aug. 2019].