Deciding Between the SAT and ACT: Which Test is Right for You?

scottbloomdecisionsChoosing the right standardized test for you can make an enormous difference to your college application experience: working with subjects you’re more comfortable with and being tested on a skill set that better matches your own strengths, can greatly ease your study burden and boost your chances of a strong score.

The SAT and ACT are structurally and functionally similar, but their content differs in significant ways that can be used to a student’s advantage. Here are a few things to consider when choosing between the ACT and the SAT:

Similarities Between the SAT and ACT

Let’s start with what these two tests have in common. They take about the same amount of time to complete, and are equally popular test choices in the United States. They require both qualitative and quantitative skills, and each have four sections plus an optional essay. Colleges weigh the ACT sand SAT equally – you won’t be penalized for choosing either exam over the other, so many students choose to take both and submit whichever test they perform better on. All U.S. colleges accept scores from both tests.

Differences Between the SAT and ACT

The main difference between the SAT and the ACT is their content – choose the exam that tests your strongest skills. The SAT is more qualitatively oriented in that it has Reading, Writing, and Math sections, while the ACT is more quantitatively oriented in that it has English, Math, and Science sections. ACT English passages tend to be at an easier reading level than SAT Reading passages, but ACT Math typically contains more trigonometry questions than SAT Math.

The ACT also includes a science section, although ACT Science questions focus on a student’s ability to comprehend and evaluate given scientific information and hypotheses, rather than on his or her outside knowledge of scientific concepts. You won’t need to remember everything you learned in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics class for this exam, but you will need to know how to understand those concepts when they are explained to you using common scientific vocabulary words.

The Optional Essays

Both tests include an optional essay, but these take very different forms. The ACT essay asks you to evaluate and analyze a complex issue. You are given three perspectives on a worldly, relevant question – like the implications of automation for history – and asked to discuss your own perspective on the issue relative to at least one of the given perspectives. The ACT essay favors those with strong logic, debate, and discussion skills. Test-takers are also asked to use reasoning and outside examples to support their arguments, so a strong knowledge of history, literature, and/or current events can come in handy.

The SAT essay, on the other hand, tests comprehension of a source text, and is a good choice for those with strong reading comprehension, interpretation, and critical analysis skills. Test-takers are given a passage to read and asked to examine the author’s use of evidence, reasoning, and stylistic or persuasive elements. Strong SAT essays typically include references to and explanations of literary concepts like allusion, rhetorical language, and anecdote, so a strong knowledge of English literary components and concepts is also useful.

How to Decide Whether to Take the SAT or ACT

The best way to determine which test is better for you is to take at least one official ACT practice test, and at least one official SAT practice test. (I’ll emphasize official – you want to ensure that your practice session is as representative of the real thing as possible, and a copycat practice test won’t achieve that.)

If you still can’t decide between the two exams, or if you take one and realize you might have done better on the other, recognize that there’s no penalty if you officially sit both the SAT and the ACT. The SAT and ACT are operated by different organizations, so reporting your SAT scores to colleges won’t automatically send your ACT scores to them too, and vice versa. If you take both tests, you can choose to report scores for just one exam – whichever one you do better on. (Keep in mind, though, that some colleges require you to submit all scores you’ve received from each test, so if you’ve officially sat three SAT’s, you’ll have to report all three scores, not just your best one.)

It’s best to devote your energy to just one test out of the two, but ultimately, you can’t really go wrong when choosing between the SAT and the ACT. Apart from the test fees and studying time spent, there is no cost to taking both exams. Play to your strengths by choosing the test with content that better fits your skills, but don’t worry about choosing wrong – you can always change your mind later on! The best option is to start your test prep early in your high school career, in order to give yourself time to explore both tests and to switch to the other one if you need to.

Still need help deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT (or both)? Check out Veritas Prep’s free SAT vs. ACT Comparison Tool to determine which exam is right for you. And as always, be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

By Courtney Tran, a Veritas Prep college admissions consultant and 99th percentile SAT and ACT instructor. Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.

The Pros and Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay-Writing Section

SAT WorryAs you read about the different sections on the ACT, you’ll notice that the essay (or Writing section) is optional. So should you do the ACT Writing section or opt out of it?

The best way to answer this question is to check out both the pros and cons of signing up for the ACT without the essay:

Pros of Skipping the ACT Essay

Saving Time
One of the advantages of signing up for the ACT without the essay is you can reduce the amount of time you spend preparing for the exam. Preparation for the ACT Writing section means learning the scoring rubric to find out the elements necessary to achieve a high score. Also, you must spend time practicing your essay-writing skills to ensure that you’re ready to create an impressive essay. Skipping the ACT essay means you have more study time to dedicate to the other sections on the test. Plus, taking the ACT without writing time means your total testing period is shortened by 40 minutes.

Saving Money
The official website for the ACT displays one fee for taking the test with the Writing section and another for taking the ACT without the essay, so if you decide to skip the essay, you can save a little money on your testing fees. This can be important, especially if you have a tight budget for standardized tests taken in your junior and senior year in high school.

Sticking With Your Strengths
Perhaps essay-writing is not one of your strengths – when you take the ACT without the Writing section, time can be spent studying for the other sections of the test. You can focus on the Math, Reading, Science, and English sections to achieve scores that will impress college admissions officials. However, if you want to improve your essay-writing skills, our capable instructors can help you to achieve that goal. We can teach you strategies for how to set up a logical, well-organized essay and provide you with guided practice to help make your essay the best it can be.

Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay

Lacking a Requirement?
One of the cons of taking the ACT without the essay is that you may want to apply to colleges that list a score for the Writing section as an admissions requirement. In order to apply to those colleges, you would have to go back and take the entire test again to get an essay score. Checking to see if the ACT essay is a requirement for the colleges you plan to apply to is a wise idea. But keep in mind that you may want to add a college to your list later or even transfer to another school that requires an ACT essay score.

Skipping the Opportunity to Make an Impression
Another con of skipping the essay section on the ACT is that you’ll miss out on an opportunity to show off your writing skills. Earning a high score on the essay is sure to capture the attention of college admissions officials. If writing is one of your strengths, why not take the time to highlight that talent to colleges?

Missing Out on an Intro to College-Level Work
If you skip the ACT essay, you miss out on the chance to become familiar with college-level work. The task of writing this essay is similar to what you’ll be doing in your English classes as a college freshman. You’ll be writing a lot of papers for classes once you start working toward a degree, so why not give yourself the opportunity to dip your toe into the type of academic work you’ll be doing as a college student?

Whether you decide to take the ACT with or without the essay, we are here to help you prep for the test. You may want to start by trying a free ACT trial class taught by one of our professional, 99th percentile instructors. This will give you an idea of all that we have to offer you at Veritas Prep. Sign up for our test prep services and you have the choice of online tutoring, in-person courses, or On Demand instruction. At Veritas Prep, we make it easy for you to learn what you need to know to ace the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

The New SAT vs. the ACT: A Simple Test Comparison

Law School Images“Are ‘SAT’ and ‘ACT’ the same thing?” If you’ve been thinking about this question, you’re not alone. Many high school students are curious about the similarities between these two tests and how different they really are.

A quick SAT-to-ACT comparison can help you to decide whether to take the new SAT, the ACT, or both.

Scoring
The scoring scales for the ACT versus new SAT are very different. The highest score you can earn on the ACT is a 36. There are four sections on the ACT, and you receive a raw score for each section, which is changed into a scaled score ranging from one to 36. Your final score is the average of your four scaled scores. On the other hand, the highest score you can achieve on the new SAT is 1600. You receive a subscore for each section of the new SAT, and your final score is the sum of your subscores.

Math Questions
When making an SAT-to-ACT comparison, you’ll find that both tests include questions on advanced math concepts such as geometry and trigonometry as well as algebra. Of course, knowledge of arithmetic is necessary on both tests. One difference between the two Math sections is that you’re given 60 minutes to complete 60 questions on the ACT and 80 minutes to complete 58 questions on the new SAT. You’re also allowed to use a calculator throughout the Math section on the ACT, but your calculator use is limited on the new SAT.

Science Questions
One major difference in the new SAT versus ACT test is that there’s no specific Science section on the new SAT. However, some of the skills you use in science class are tested in other sections on the new SAT. For instance, in the Math section you’re often asked to analyze the information given on a chart or graph, and the Reading section contains passages that cover science-related topics. The ACT does have a section of Science questions – earth science, chemistry, and biology are among the sciences found on the ACT. You must answer a total of 40 questions in 35 minutes in the Science section of the ACT.

Reading Questions
When making an SAT-vs.-ACT comparison, you’ll see that the Reading sections on both tests share a lot of similarities. The Reading sections on both exams feature several passages accompanied by questions. The SAT has five passages, while the ACT has four. In addition, the two tests share many of the same question types. For instance, they both have main idea, detail, vocabulary-in-context, and inference questions. In addition to those, the new SAT has data reasoning, technique, and evidence support questions. You’re given 35 minutes to finish 40 questions on the ACT and 65 minutes to finish 52 questions on the new SAT Reading section.

Writing and English Tests
There is a Writing & Language section on the new SAT that requires you to improve on phrases found within the given passages. There may be grammar or punctuation errors in the passage or problems with sentence structure. You’ll read the passage and select the better options for the underlined phrases.

The ACT has an English section with passages that also contain underlined phrases. Your task is to find a better alternative to the phrase or, in some cases, select the “no change” option. Once again, there may be grammar errors or problems with punctuation, sentence structure, or organization. You are given 45 minutes to finish 75 questions in the English section on the ACT and 35 minutes to complete 44 Writing & Language questions on the new SAT.

The Essay
When it comes to the essay on the ACT vs. new SAT, both tests make this section optional. For the new SAT Essay section, you’re required to analyze an argument and offer evidence as to why the author’s argument is valid or invalid. Alternatively, the ACT Essay section presents you with three different perspectives on a particular issue, and your job is to evaluate each of them. On both essays, your score depends on your ability to organize your thoughts, present evidence, and convey your ideas in a clear way.

Are “SAT” and “ACT” the same? In some ways, the answer is “yes,” but in many others, the answer is “no.” Regardless of which test you take, our professional instructors can help you practice for it. Look at our video tutorials and sign up for our in-person or online test prep courses today!

Want to learn more about how the SAT and ACT differ? Attend one of our upcoming free live online SAT vs. ACT workshops to determine which exam is right for you. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

ACT Registration Checklist and Testing Dates

ChecklistCompleting the ACT registration process is the first step toward sitting down to take the test. Having a checklist of things to do can help you to organize the process.

Learn about the steps you need to take, as well as some important things to consider, before you sit down to register for the ACT.

Create a Student Account Online
ACT registration can be accomplished very easily by visiting their official website, ACT.org. After creating an account, it takes about 40 minutes to complete the registration forms. There is a test fee that you can pay with a credit card via a secure payment system. Also, you must upload a photo of yourself during ACT test registration. This photo is used for identification purposes and will be put onto the ticket that you’ll take with you to the testing center.

Special Accommodations for the Test
If you have a disability, it’s possible to get special accommodations for the ACT. For instance, if you’re visually impaired, you may be able to arrange for a magnifying device or a reader. During the registration process, you have the chance to express the need for special accommodations. After registration is complete, you will receive an email explaining how to request testing accommodations. You must then work with the officials at your school to secure accommodations for the ACT. You will have to submit proof of a disability along with other documentation. Your school must submit the actual request for accommodations to ACT testing officials.

The Writing Test
The writing test on the ACT is optional. During registration, you can specify whether you want to take it. If you change your mind later about taking the writing test, you can log onto the website and make this adjustment. Keep in mind that you must make the change before the late registration deadline connected with your test date. There is an additional fee for the writing test.

Choose a Test Date and Location
You’ll have the opportunity to choose a test date as well as a testing center located near you. On the website, there is a chart that displays upcoming test dates as well as corresponding ACT registration dates. The ACT registration dates are the deadlines for anyone who wants to take the test on a particular day. It’s possible to register for the test after the deadline passes, but the ACT charges a late fee for that service. The test center locator on the website makes it simple for you to find a location that is convenient. Your test date and location will be confirmed after you finish the ACT test registration process.

Arranging for the Delivery of Score Reports
As part of your testing fee, the ACT sends your score report to four colleges. You can specify these colleges during test registration. You have the option of sending your score report to more than four colleges, but there is a fee for each additional request.

Preparing for the Test
After going through the process of ACT registration, your next step is to prep for the test! That’s where we can help. At Veritas Prep, our talented instructors can provide you with tools that enable you to highlight your skills on the ACT. We’ll guide you through taking a practice ACT to reveal both your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the material on this test. In addition, we’ll pair you with an instructor who knows how to convey lessons with your learning style in mind. We’ll help you improve your test performance by giving you strategies to use on every section of the ACT.

When you sign up with Veritas Prep, you get to study with an instructor who scored in the 99th percentile on the test, so the study tips you receive are coming from someone who has taken and conquered the ACT! Our team is proud to provide quality ACT tutoring both online and in person. We use proven study resources in our classes so you know you’re getting practical information you can use on the test.

If you’re looking for the best in ACT prep, send us an email or give us a call today. Let Veritas Prep play a part in your victory on the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

What’s Going on With the ACT Essay: A Synopsis of Recent Issues with ACT Essay Scoring

tutoringIn September of 2015, changes were made to the essay on the ACT. The essay now has a new system of scoring. In addition, students are asked to approach the essay in a different way than in previous years.

There have been some issues that have come up as a result of these changes. Learn the specifics about some of the changes relating to the ACT essay:

Differences Between the Old ACT Essay and the New ACT Essay
On the old ACT essay, students were given a prompt and asked to take a stand on a particular issue. The new version of the essay gives students a prompt that outlines an issue and offers three perspectives on it. Students must analyze the issue as well as offer their own perspective on it. In addition, they are asked to describe the relationship between their perspective and the ones offered.

Students are given 40 minutes to finish the essay, whereas they were given just 30 minutes on the previous version of the test. As a note, a student’s essay score is not affected by the stance they take on the given issue.

The Old ACT Essay Scoring System vs. the Current System
On the old ACT, students could score from two to 12 points on the essay. A student’s essay was read by two graders – each of these graders gave an essay a score ranging from one to six. The two scores were combined to determine the total amount of points.

Today, students can score from one to 36 points on the new ACT essay. Graders evaluate several aspects of an essay, including its organization, language use, development, support, ideas, and analysis. This new scoring system is designed to reveal more information about a student’s specific writing skills.

What Sorts of Issues Are Occurring With the New Essay Scoring System on the ACT?
One of the recent issues with the new ACT essay scoring system involves students reporting unexpectedly low scores on the essay. Some students are performing well on every other part of the ACT but are getting a low score on the essay, and teachers and school counselors who know the capabilities of their students are questioning these low essay scores. This issue is prompting some students to request that their essay be re-scored.

Another issue with the ACT essay has had to do with timing. Some students who took the ACT in September of 2015 applied to college via early decision or early action. Generally, the deadline for early decision applications is in November and the deadline for early action applications is usually in November or early December. In some cases, ACT essay scores were delayed, making students wonder if their application would still be eligible for early decision or early action.

What Options Do Students Have Regarding Their Essay Score?
Students who don’t agree with their ACT essay score can request to have their essay re-scored. They must make this request in writing within three months of getting their score. There is a fee of $50 to have an essay hand-scored. It takes up to five weeks to get the hand-scoring results. If an error is found, the updated scores are sent out to the student as well as others who received the original scores. Also, a student’s re-scoring fee is refunded.

Tips for Writing an Effective ACT Essay
One of the most effective ways students can prep for this section of the ACT is to write a practice essay. It’s a good idea for a student to time the essay-writing process so they will be able to finish in the allotted 40 minutes. Many students look at high-scoring essays to see what they need to include in order to earn an impressive ACT essay score.

Our ACT courses at Veritas Prep are designed to help students tackle the essay as well as every other section on the test. Each of our talented instructors scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. This means that Veritas Prep students are learning test-taking strategies from the experts! Students can take ACT prep classes from Veritas Prep either online or in person. We give you the tools to showcase your talents on the ACT!

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!

Why Are Some Schools No Longer Requiring Students to Complete the Optional SAT and ACT Essays?

Cornell UniversityToday’s high school student has the choice of either writing or skipping the essay on both the ACT and the SAT. Though many colleges don’t require students to submit an essay score, there are some that still do. This leaves many students wondering whether they should write the optional essay for the ACT and/or the SAT. It’s a good idea for students to find out if a college they are interested in requires an essay score for either of these two tests.

This brings up the question: Why do some colleges require SAT and/or ACT essay scores while others don’t? Take a look at the reasons why many colleges consider the SAT and ACT essays optional for all of their applicants:

Focusing on Other Scores
Some school officials feel that the scores on other sections of the ACT and SAT serve to adequately represent a student’s suitability for college. For instance, a college may focus on a student’s scores in the Reading and Writing and Language sections of the SAT – the Writing and Language section tests skills such as command of evidence, the proper use of words in context, and expression of ideas.

Though a student isn’t actually writing in these sections, their answers can indicate an understanding of these skills. Furthermore, college admissions officials can look at the subscores for these sections to get an idea of a student’s specific skills. Other college officials get a clear picture of a student’s skills by looking at their scores on the Reading and English sections of the ACT. With all of these other scores at their fingertips, many college officials don’t see the need for an essay score on standardized tests.

The Admissions Essay
Many colleges consider the SAT and ACT essays optional because they prefer to focus on a student’s admissions essay. There are some colleges that prefer to set the topic for the essay instead of leaving it to the discretion of the SAT or ACT. They like to have control over what their applicants are writing about as well as the number of words they use.

Furthermore, they want to give their applicants as much time as they need to craft their essays before turning them in with their applications. Consequently, students don’t have the added stress of finishing an essay within an allotted amount of time. School officials feel they can get a good indication of a student’s knowledge of vocabulary, sentence structure, creativity, and ability to express ideas by evaluating the person’s admissions essay. They don’t see the need to factor a second essay into their decision.

High School Literature and English Classes
Other school officials believe that looking at a high school student’s grades in English and Literature gives them enough information to determine whether the applicant would be a good fit at the college. They can see whether a student has taken on the challenge of increasingly difficult courses over their high school career. In addition, if a student has taken honors English classes throughout high school, that is a definite sign of someone with excellent reading and writing abilities. These colleges feel that they get a better indication of a student’s skills by looking at their coursework over a long period of time.

Awards, Honors, and Recognition for Writing
Often, colleges that don’t require students to do the essay on the ACT or the SAT look at whether a student earned any writing awards or honors during high school. For instance, one student’s application may note that they were recognized by a literary magazine for a poem they wrote. Another student may have received recognition from their school for an editorial they wrote for the local newspaper. Prizes and honors for writing endeavors can help convince college officials of a student’s writing abilities.

At Veritas Prep, our professional instructors show students how to sharpen their essay-writing skills as well as prep for every other portion of the SAT and the ACT. We hire instructors who scored in the 99th percentile on both tests because we want our students to learn from the very best teachers! Our students have access to test-taking strategies that can simplify every question on both the ACT and the SAT. Contact Veritas Prep today and tell us how we can help you get into the college of your dreams.

Do you still need help with your college applications? We can help! Visit our College Admissions website and fill out our FREE Profile Evaluation for personalized feedback on your unique background! And as always, be sure to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Twitter!

Understanding the ACT Essay Grading Rubric

writing essayThe writing test is one of the five sections that make up the ACT. Each student’s writing test is evaluated based on the elements in the ACT essay scoring rubric. The ACT writing rubric features four areas or domains. The four domains are ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions. The scores a student receives in each of these domains contribute to a student’s total score on the essay.

Let’s examine the scoring process for the writing test and take a closer look at the ACT essay scoring rubric:

The Scoring System for the ACT Essay
Each student’s essay is evaluated by two individuals who are familiar with the ACT essay rubric. A score of one to six points is given for each of the four domains in the ACT writing rubric. The scores of both graders are added together to get a total score for each domain. If there is a discrepancy of more than one point between the individual scores of the two readers, then a third reader is brought in to re-evaluate the student’s essay. Otherwise, an essay receives a total score based on the domain scores awarded by the two readers.

Ideas and Analysis
The first item in the ACT essay rubric concerns ideas and analysis. Essay graders evaluate a student’s ability to understand and express the ideas contained in the given issue. In order to achieve a high score on the essay, students must also be able to understand the different perspectives offered on the issue. An essay should contain relevant ideas expressed in a clear, succinct fashion.

Development and Support
Students who achieve a high score in this domain offer solid evidence to support their points of view. In fact, they provide specific examples that help to support their perspectives. Students are able to convey their ideas in a way that is easy to understand. They take their audience into account as they craft their arguments. At the end of the essay, the reader should be able to see a student’s way of thinking regarding the given issue.

Organization
Students receive a score for the way they organize their essay. Their ideas should be organized in a logical way that lends to the reader’s understanding. A student must transition from idea to idea in a smooth way. An essay should have a clear purpose and end with a conclusion that sums up the student’s thoughts on the issue. A typical format for an ACT essay includes an introduction, three or four paragraphs in the body, and a solid conclusion.

Language Use and Conventions
Essay graders evaluate a student’s skill at using written language to clearly express ideas. A student’s grammar, spelling, and mechanics all play a part in a grader’s final evaluation of the essay. Incorrect punctuation and misspellings are a distraction for essay readers. A student who can use vocabulary, phrasing, and sentence style to convey ideas in an effective way will receive a high score in this domain.

Tips for Writing an ACT Essay
Students who want to excel on the ACT writing test should practice their essay-writing skills on a regular basis. This is all the more effective if a student studies high-scoring ACT essays. They can practice including all of the components necessary for an essay worthy of a high score.

Another tip for writing a convincing ACT essay is to learn new vocabulary words. Students can use these vocabulary words to fully express the ideas in their essay. Plus, learning these words can also be useful in answering questions in the reading section of the ACT. Students can also benefit from making practice outlines. A solid outline can help students organize all of their ideas and supporting evidence. Furthermore, an outline is a helpful guide if a student loses their train of thought while writing the essay on test day.

Our encouraging instructors at Veritas Prep can provide students with guidance on the essay portion of the ACT. Also, we can advise them on the various components of the ACT essay rubric. We hire instructors who achieved a score of at least 33 on the ACT: Veritas Prep students learn from tutors who have real-life experience with the exam! Choose from our in-person or online prep courses and gain the confidence you need to ace the ACT.

Still need to take the ACT? We run a free online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!