High school students either prepare for SAT or ACT or in some cases prepare for both to qualify for undergraduate programs abroad. Either way, interest in taking these exams to apply for international universities among Indian students remains high.
Early preparation is the key to success here. SAT/ACT scores play a crucial role in the acceptance of an application at universities abroad. There are several factors to be considered before deciding on which exam to prepare for and with some time tested tips, students can make the best out of their efforts.
Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a standardized test created by the College Board to evaluate students applying for admission in US colleges and universities. It comprises of two sections –Math and combined evidence-based reading & writing. The optional essay section is graded separately. The purpose is to measure the college readiness of the students and to measure all students under one roof. College Board, an American not-for-profit organization is the owner and administrator of the SAT.
ACT is a test undertaken post high school to apply for admission in a college or university. It comprises of four multiple-choice tests in English, Math, Reading, and Science with an optional writing test. The purpose of the test is to measure the college readiness of the students and to measure all students under one roof. ACT is owned and administrated by ACT, a non-profit organization of the same name.
Both SAT and ACT are similar in style the only difference is that SAT does not have a science section and includes two math sections where students are allowed to use a calculator only in one section. The ACT includes a science section.
This has to be your starting point for any competitive exam. A diagnostic test is one you take before any preparation to see how much you score without any preparation. You take the test based on your current knowledge and comfort with the subjects.
The scores of a diagnostic test will tell you where you stand in terms of your subject wise strengthens and weaknesses. You can do a detailed analysis of section wise scores to see what parts of the test you need to focus more on.
Competitive exams differ from high school exams, hence, it is important to familiarise oneself with the structure, style, and pattern of these exams. Taking a diagnostic test will help you understand the following related to SAT/ACT exam structure:
Both SAT and ACT are timed exams so you need to schedule your SAT and ACT prep plan in a way where time is set aside dedicated only to practicing full-length test papers. The more you practice the better you will be able to perform during the test day. During your practice, you should time yourself. At the end of each practice test, you should check how much time you spent on each section and accordingly strategize for the test day. Post review on the exam day divide your time basis how much time you will need to:
After every practice test, review your performance. Look for sections, topics, and questions you get right and the ones you aren’t. Keep a track of all the previous test scores, compare and evaluate your performance for improvement.
Aligned to the new SAT test format this guide from College Board has:
The book is suitable for students who are beginning to review SAT exam. It contains:
Starting your prep early, a test a week from the book is a good practice to follow:
Invest more time in understanding the concepts that you are going wrong with. Write and revise till you get the concepts right to solve any Math problem based on those concepts.
For all the questions you get wrong, write down and revise the steps to the right answer. Follow this SAT study tip to know the logic behind the right answer. For example, if there are 50 different types of math problems practice all of them using this method. By the end of your practice, you should be able to solve these problems correctly every time.
When the questions have variables and answer choices have numbers, you can avoid algebra altogether. Plug in the numbers from the answer choices into the original algebraic equation to see if the problem works out fine. This SAT study tip is effective on the radioactive decay and exponential growth problems on the New SAT.
Develop a habit of reading long passages. Reading long texts has become a challenge as most of the time in the real world primarily due to social media attention spans have gone down. To become accustom to reading well practice reading non –fiction material without missing out on vital information.
Not paying attention to the context while reading passages may lead to incorrect answers. Reading a word alone in a question and wasting time looking for it in the passage will often lead you to read back and forth to guess the answer. To be sure of answering a question correctly reading the entire passage carefully is vital.
For example, if a question has a reference of a particular line in a passage to get the meaning of a word, it will not be enough to just read that line alone. To get the right answer to understand the context in which the word has been used is important. One will have to read a few lines before and a few after it to arrive at the right conclusion. Reading less generally leads to making assumptions which can leave you unsure of your answers.
The test is designed to assess how well you can revise and edit texts, given in the form of passages. There will be four passages with 11 questions associated with each passage. The text style in the passages ranges from argumentative, non-fiction narrative to being explanatory in giving information. The questions test students on improving the development of a topic, and organization of information and ideas.
The writing and language test may add complexity to its passages or questions by including one or more tables, graphs, or charts as a supporting point related to the topic of the passage. Such passages may have questions that ask you to use the information given in the graphs to correct a factual error in the passage or replace the passage’s vague description with a more precise one using specific numbers. The questions will not ask you to make corrections in the graph itself. Such questions test a student’s ability to understand and represent factual information correctly using the language.
Engage while learning. Just knowing the right answer is not enough. Reading the correct answers in detail to understand what makes them the right choice is important. You should be able to explain the process/ rule/technique without having to memorize it.
Calculators may be allowed for the Math section of the ACT test. To make the best use of it, know how to use it well. The best way to go about this is to use the calculator you will be using during your official test, for your ACT Math practice tests too. This way you will familiarize yourself fairly well with it, to use it fast enough on the test day.
Attempt questions based on charts or graphs first as they are generally easier compared to research and conflicting viewpoint-based questions. To answer the graph questions properly an ACT exam tip to remember is to read the labels carefully. If you get the labels right, it will help you establish the connection between data points quickly, which in turn will help find the information you are looking for easily. Not understanding labels right in the first go will lead to back and forth reading resulting in loss of time.
Follow this principle to allocate time evenly to attempt all the problems. As per the rule, the first 30 questions should be attempted in the first 20 minutes, the next 20 questions in the next 20 minutes, and the last 10 questions, the toughest ones in the remaining 20 minutes. The idea here is to use speed at the beginning to save time for later. Remember questions at the beginning are generally easy, it is the latter part of the test that usually requires more work.
Practice improving your reading speed. The better one gets at it the more time it will help save during the test day. However, it is important to read and comprehend at the same time. Do not make the mistake of assuming information. Reading 20 to 30 mins every day is one the simplest and easiest way to improve reading speed. Keep the reading light such as a newspaper, a magazine, or short stories.
These are some best SAT and ACT study prep tips that you can follow to score well in these exams. No matter which tests you take starting early to cover the entire SAT and ACT course, taking the best guidance possible on the SAT and ACT syllabus, structuring your test prep plan, and practicing as much as possible will help you keep you on track with your exam preparations.
Start early, familiarize yourself with exam patterns, take the right test preparation guidance, time yourself, and practice full length tests as much as possible.
2 months’ time can be enough depending on the level of your current knowledge. If your diagnostic test score is satisfactory, 2 months’ time is enough to brush up on your knowledge before the actual test. However, start at least six months prior to the exam for a focused preparation allowing yourself enough time to review your performance over a period of time.
The difficulty level of an exam depends on a student’s knowledge and skill. Both being qualifying exams for undergraduate study programs are neither easier nor harder than the other. Some students score better in ACT others do better in SAT.
Most colleges require either the SAT or ACT and express no preference for either test. That said, significant percentages of students at selective colleges are submitting scores from both tests when they apply.
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