Posted By Meredith Crawford
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Q & A with Test-Taking Guru Jessica Brondo
When it comes to the ACT and the SAT, how do you know which take? Or should you take both?
If you were a teenager in the 1980s or ’90s, the answer to the question was simple, and it was dictated by geography. Those in New England and the Northeast generally took the SAT, while Midwesterners more commonly took the ACT.
But, in the 21stcentury, test-taking isn’t quite so black and white. Both tests present advantages to their takers, and knowing which one will show off your strengths is the key to gaining admission to the college or university of your choice.
TutaPoint consulted Jessica Brondo, a test-taking expert and the founder and CEO of Admittedly, for the inside scoop on the ACT and the SAT.
TutaPoint: If you are much better in one subject area than another—say you are much better in English than you are in math—should you take the SAT, or will it make you appear unbalanced? Would you be better off taking the ACT?
Jessica Brondo: ACT is way better because the overall score is an average not a sum, and there are four sections (so three other sections to balance out a low score in one)!
TutaPoint: What are the main ways you have to prepare differently for the SAT and ACT?
J.B.: Eighty-five percent of the concepts are the same, so you’ll need to master largely the same concepts. The difference lies in the test-taking strategies: timing, pacing, guessing, etc.
TutaPoint: What are some of the most common reasons why students who may have good grades don’t earn the score they expect on the SAT and ACT?
J.B.: The tests are tests of memorization (for the most part, aside from vocabulary on the SAT) and largely test students’ ability to reason logically (aka “think”), which unfortunately is not being taught in schools. Most schools teach “to the test” and don’t present similar topics in a variety of ways, so students have to sometimes forget the traditional way they learned a concept in school in order to be able to master a faster way of approaching the problem.
TutaPoint: What kind of content is covered on the ACT that is not covered on the SAT, and vice versa?
J.B.: ACT: science, more advanced math (trigonometry, logarithms, 3-D geometry), punctuation.
SAT: sentence completions (required knowledge of vocabulary).
TutaPoint: Are there different time-management strategies you should employ in taking the SAT versus taking the ACT?
J.B.: ACT sections are much longer, so it is a drastically different strategy to make sure you are pacing yourself for a 60-minute or 75-minute section versus a 25-minute section on the SAT. You need a bit more stamina for the ACT.
TutaPoint: Why is the ACT growing in popularity?
J.B.: It is much more similar to what students are learning in school and it has fewer traps (aka places to “catch” students on careless mistakes). It’s also a bit shorter, and it doesn’t have vocabulary, so for a student who didn’t learn vocab in school, it is a nicer exam because the student doesn’t have to cram to memorize thousands of vocabulary words.
TutaPoint: The ACT writing test is optional. Should students take it?
J.B.: One hundred percent. If you want the ACT to replace the SAT, then you must take the ACT with writing.
TutaPoint: Lots of colleges say they don’t give more weight to one test over the other. Is that true in your experience?
J.B.: Absolutely…..either test is totally fine!
EdgePrepLIVE offers a comprehensive SAT and ACT Prep Course, preparing students for both of these tests. Learn more at www.EdgePrepLive.com
Jessica Brondo is the CEO and founder of Admitted.ly, the ultimate online college advisory tool for high school students, their parents, and guidance counselors.