The ACT and SAT are standardized tests nationally administered to people embarking on a college search. SAT stands for Scholastic Aptitude Test, and this test originated in 1926. The ACT is administered through the American College Testing Program, and it originated in 1959 as an alternative to the SAT. Colleges accept both SAT and ACT scores, so students may opt to take both or just one of these standardized tests when preparing for an online degree program or a standard college career. Both the SAT and ACT include reading, math, language, and essay questions. The SAT does not include science questions, while the ACT does. The time allotment for the SAT is longer than the ACT. The ACT math section tests more complex skills than the SAT does. However, calculator use is allowed for the entire ACT, while some parts of the SAT do not allow a calculator. Whichever test a student takes, preparation will help ensure the best scores.
Preparing for the SAT begins with setting goals and creating a detailed plan of study. For the best results, students should begin SAT preparation as early as possible, at least three months before the anticipated test date. Begin preparation by taking a full-length practice test. The practice test helps you know what to expect, and it also diagnoses strengths and weaknesses to enable focused study. To prepare for the reading section, students should read theses and essays, focusing on the arguments presented and building critical-thinking skills. Studying vocabulary words is another important part of SAT preparation because vocabulary is an integral part of the sentence completion and reading comprehension sections. Memorizing formulas and math rules is imperative for the math section. Students should also practice effective and accurate use of the calculator. Getting a good night’s sleep on the night before the test is also important.
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When preparing for the ACT, the amount of time needed for studying and the focus for these studies depends on several factors. Students can often streamline their preparation by determining their target score, which is dependent on their college aspirations. Checking specific schools’ ACT requirements will help determine target scores, but no matter what that number might be, students should strive to attain a score that’s at least in the 75th percentile. After determining the target score, the next step is to take a full-length practice test to detect strengths and weaknesses. In general, students wishing to improve their score by four to six points over their practice results should plan to study at least 80 hours. With a three-month study period, this would involve around five hours of study each week. Study should include math concepts such as percentages, averages, factoring, probability, geometry, and volume. In-depth study of grammar is important for success, too. For reading, focus on comprehension, logic, and vocabulary. The science section demands strength in interpreting charts and tables. To succeed in the science section, practice applying common sense and developing good instincts based on material learned in the classroom.
The writing section of the ACT is optional, and it involves a 40-minute test to measure writing skills. Some schools require the ACT writing test, while others do not. Taking the writing test will show your ability to think under pressure and write logically. The test involves a prompt, three points of view that apply to the prompt, and an assignment to write an essay based on a point of view. Two human readers read the essays, each assigning a score. The final score is the sum of both scores.
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