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SAT-ACT Test Planning and Guidance for High School Students

SAT & ACT Test Prep

If you are a high-school student who is planning on taking SAT and ACT test over next 12 months, here are a few tips you will find useful in planning and preparing for the tests and getting a good score.

 

1. Do Colleges prefer one test over another? No, more students take ACT test now as compared to SAT test. This trend has been favoring ACT test as many high schools may be giving free ACT prep material that may be driving more students to take ACT test over SAT. Colleges do not prefer one test over another and have enough data over the years to analyze a student’s performance and credentials in addition to their grades, GPA and other data points.

 

 

2. Which test to take? This is a tough question to answer as the data from students show that some students do better in one test and some do better in another test. Best approach is to practice both the tests and see which one you are more comfortable with. Also, many students appear for both the tests and either submit those scores to colleges or select the one that favors their application.

 

Given both the test have equal weightage on English reading and writing, the difference being more on Math side with SAT having more Math sections and ACT having a science section, I suggest students with strong math base to go for SAT and students who may not be strong in Math to go for ACT.

 

Comparison of SAT and ACT Test (source: Princeton Review)
SAT TestACT Test
Test Structure
  • Reading
  • Writing & Language
  • Math
  • Essay (Optional)
  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science Reasoning

Essay (Optional)

Length
  • 3 hours (without essay)
  • 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay)
  • 2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay)
  • 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay)
Reading5 reading passages4 reading passages
ScienceNone1 science section testing your critical thinking skills (not your specific science knowledge)
MathCovers:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I & II
  • Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis
Covers:

  • Arithmetic
  • Algebra I & II
  • Geometry and Trigonometry
Calculator PolicySome math questions don’t allow you to use a calculator.You can use a calculator on all math questions.
EssaysOptional. The essay will test your comprehension of a source text.Optional. The essay will test how well you evaluate and analyze complex issues.
How It’s ScoredScored on a scale of 400–1600Scored on a scale of 1–36

 

3. When to take the tests and how many time to take tests? Given the SAT & ACT test are designed to test your basic college english, math and science knowledge, they can be easily taken in Sophomore/Junior year (10th and 11th). Since most of the students are very busy in senior year (grade 12th) to apply to colleges, best approach is to finish all the testing by summer after your junior (grade 11th) year. Here is a high level timeline for students for next 12th months.

 

October or December 2018 – Take a first attempt of the SAT/ACT test

March or May 2019 – Take the second attempt if you want to take another chance and improve your score

Below are the dates for SAT and ACT tests over next 12 months. More information can be found out at college board

 

2018-19 SAT Administration Dates and Deadlines
SAT DateSAT Subject Tests AvailableRegistration DeadlineLate Registration DeadlineDeadline for Changes
August 25, 2018

Register

See SAT Subject Tests available on this dateJuly 27, 2018August 7, 2018 (for mailed registrations)

August 15, 2018 (for registrations made online or by phone)

August 15, 2018
October 6, 2018

Register

See SAT Subject Tests available on this dateSeptember 7, 2018September 18, 2018 (for mailed registrations)

September 26, 2018 (for registrations made online or by phone)

September 26, 2018
November 3, 2018

Register

See SAT Subject Tests available on this dateOctober 5, 2018October 16, 2018 (for mailed registrations)

October 24, 2018 (for registrations made online or by phone)

October 24, 2018
December 1, 2018

Register

See SAT Subject Tests available on this dateNovember 2, 2018November 13, 2018 (for mailed registrations)

November 20, 2018 (for registrations made online or by phone)

November 20, 2018
March 9, 2019

Register

SAT Subject Tests not offered on this dateFebruary 8, 2019February 19, 2019 (for mailed registrations)

February 27, 2019 (for registrations made online or by phone)

February 27, 2019
May 4, 2019

Register

See SAT Subject Tests available on this dateApril 5, 2019April 16, 2019 (for mailed registrations)

April 24, 2019 (for registrations made online or by phone)

April 24, 2019
June 1, 2019

Register

See SAT Subject Tests available on this dateMay 3, 2019May 14, 2019 (for mailed registrations)

May 22, 2019 (for registrations made online or by phone)

May 22, 2019

 

 

SAT Test dates for International students

 

2018-19 International SAT Administration Dates and DeadlinesSAT DateSAT Subject Tests AvailableEarly Registration via RepresentativeRegistration DeadlineDeadline for Changes

 

2018-19 International SAT Administration Dates and Deadlines
SAT DateSAT Subject Tests AvailableEarly Registration via RepresentativeRegistration DeadlineDeadline for Changes

October 6, 2018

Register

See SAT Subject Tests available on this dateAugust 22, 2018September 7, 2018September 26, 2018

December 1, 2018

Register

See SAT Subject Tests available on this dateOctober 17, 2018November 2, 2018November 20, 2018

March 9, 2019

Register

See SAT Subject Tests available on this dateJanuary 23, 2019February 8, 2019February 27, 2019

May 4, 2019

Register

See SAT Subject Tests available on this dateMarch 20, 2019April 5, 2019April 24, 2019
You can find more information on registration, results etc. at the college board page.
ACT test dates in the USA. Register here for the test dates
2018-2019 Test Dates (National)
Test DateRegistration Deadline(Late Fee Required)
September 8, 2018**August 10, 2018August 11-26, 2018
October 27, 2018September 28, 2018September 29-October 14, 2018
December 8, 2018November 2, 2018November 3-19, 2018
February 9, 2019*January 11, 2019January 12-18, 2019
April 13, 2019March 8, 2019March 9-25, 2019
June 8, 2019May 3, 2019May 4-20, 2019
July 13, 2019*June 14, 2019June 15-24, 2019
International ACT Test Dates
2018-2019 Test Dates (International)*
Test DatesRegistration Deadline(Late Fee Required)
September 7-8, 2018August 10, 2018August 11-31, 2018
October 26-27, 2018September 28, 2018September 29-October 19, 2018
December 7-8, 2018November 2, 2018November 3-30, 2018
February 8-9, 2019January 11, 2019January 12-February 1, 2019
April 12-13, 2019March 8, 2019March 9-April 5, 2019
June 7-8, 2019May 3, 2019May 4-31, 2019

 

4. How to prepare for it? Since SAT and ACT tests are designed to test a student’s college readiness and also have a more standardized way to benchmark a student’s performance with others through a standardized mechanism, it is pretty much designed to see your high school understanding of concepts. There are students who get excellent scores without doing any prep. and there are students who cannot get top scores even with all the coaching, tutoring and prep. Today, there are number of good resources to prepare for the test and there are hundreds of thousands of tutors who can work with any student across any location. Some of the well known SAT & ACT prep material come from:

 

Khan Academy

Princeton Review

Kaplan

Method Test Prep (Stoodnt partnership)

And many more…..

 

5. What to do if I do not get a good score? Not to worry if you do not get excellent scores. Many students fail to recognize that the weightage of SAT & ACT test scores is far smaller than the weightage of their GPA or grades, courses in high school. SAT & ACT test scores are just one of the data points to get a picture of your strengths and academic performance. Many colleges are test optional and many colleges use this data more for scholarships etc. Colleges know many students are not the best test takers and you cannot make an admission decision based on one test performance, hence they tend to look at your high school transcript and LORs more closely than the test scores.

 

Good luck to all the 2019 college prospects!

Author: Ajay Singh

Ajay is the co-founder of Stoodnt and spent 20+ years in senior leadership roles with companies such as American Express, Cendant and Intel prior to starting Stoodnt. He has a M.B.A. from Harvard, M.S. in Computer Engineering from U.T. Austin and B.Tech from I.I.T Roorkee (India).

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