If you have a child in high school who isn’t already a senior, you are probably already wondering whether he or she should be take the ACT or SAT college entrance exam. There are multiple companies that offer in-person and online tutoring for each exam. Even though the number of “test optional” colleges is rising, most college-bound high school students end up taking at least one test or end up taking both the ACT and SAT.
There are rumors that the ACT is kinder or easier, but in practice both tests are equally challenging. Deciding which test best fits your child takes a little time and two weekends. Have your child take a timed, practice version of each test without preparing. Take the SAT one weekend and the ACT on another. There are several online versions of each test and it’s important to select a practice test you can grade or submit for free grading.
After the practice tests, look at your child’s scores. Did he or she naturally perform better or prefer one of the tests? Discuss what your child liked about each test and what was challenging. This should give you a strong sense of where your child should put his or her time and energy into preparing. This is really the best way to choose, but if your child has taken both tests and you are still unsure, consider these factors:
If you are still stuck, consider creating a game plan for taking both tests – preparing for and taking them one at a time. This requires about 18 months so it’s not for everyone. Most teens need four-to-six months to prepare and another two-to-three months to officially take the exam twice.
There are lots of review books and group classes. But the most efficient way to boost test scores is by working with a skilled, one-on-one test prep specialist who can home in on the areas where your child needs help the most. Ultimately, the test is only one of many parts of a college application. Neither fully encapsulates a child’s current abilities or future potential. No matter which test your child chooses, he or she will have a full and fulfilling life after high school.
Rachel Fisher, MA