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Should You Take the New SAT or the ACT?

classroom sat act testWe receive inquiries all the time from students and parents alike – should I take the new SAT or the ACT? Today, we will delve into this question a bit to help you make the choice between the SAT and the ACT.

Ultimately, the choice between the SAT and the ACT is a personal choice. In our tutoring center, for students who are having difficulty making that choice for themselves, we offer a free session and consultation. In that session, we gather information from each student and aid the student in making the decision between the two tests.

There are people who will stand firmly in each camp. Some say they prefer the SAT because it is more representative of the mastery of skills needed to succeed in college. Others staunchly advocate the ACT, citing the fact that the new SAT is too new to be able to truly evaluate. The reality is that the new SAT and the ACT tests have gotten much more similar. You can take a look at the structures of each test and compare them here.

There are many components that go into this decision-making process: personal preferences, college choices, areas of comfort. Let’s take a look at some of these considerations.

  • College admissions: Most schools accept either test. But do your research. Look into those schools that you might be interested in attending, and see what their admissions requirements are. This will also help identify those schools that require an essay.
  • Ability to work in a time crunch: If you looked at our comparison between the new SAT and the ACT, you may have noticed that the ACT has significantly more questions than the new SAT (215 vs. 154), in about the same time period (2 hr 55 min vs. 3 hr). In fact the average time per question on the ACT is 49 seconds, while the average time per question on the new SAT is 1 minute 10 seconds. So if you are the kind of person who buckles under time pressure, the new SAT might be a better fit for you. Also, if you are the kind of person who would panic if you did not get to every question, the ACT might not be a good choice for you.
  • Vocabulary: While it has incorporated some modifications in this area, the new SAT still has more challenging vocabulary in the test than the ACT. If you have found that you struggle with upper-level vocabulary, you may want to take the ACT.
  • Geometry: Do you struggle with Geometry?  In the old SAT, geometry was a much bigger part of the test. Now with the new SAT, there is significantly less emphasis on geometry (it is estimated that there are at most 6 or 7 questions on Geometry on the new SAT). There are many more geometry questions on the ACT (up to a max of 27 questions on coordinate and plane geometry combined). So if you like geometry and feel that is your strong suit – go with the ACT. If you hate it – stick with the new SAT.
  • Formulas: How are you with formulas? Unlike the SAT, the ACT test does not provide you with formulas to use on the test – it’s up to you to know them on your own.
  • Calculator: Does the thought of doing math without a calculator completely scare you? Then stay clear of the new SAT, which now has a section where a calculator is not allowed.  The ACT does not have such a section, you can use a calculator in the entire section.
  • Math Grid-Ins: Are you comfortable filling in answers for the math portion of the test? The new SAT has some fill-in-the-blank grid-in math problems, while all of the math questions on the ACT are multiple choice.
  • Science: If you cringe from the thought of your science class, you may not want to take the ACT. The ACT has its own Science section, the new SAT does not. You will find some science questions in each of the SAT sections, but not to the extent that you find them on the ACT test. Specifically, you will find many questions on the ACT on experimental design – dependent and independent variables, experiments, etc.
  • Retaining Details while Reading: There seems to be a notable difference between the ACT and new SAT when it comes to the reading section. On the new SAT, questions regarding the reading passages often indicate a line number to refer in the text or they go in order. On the ACT, are often random in order and do not always give line numbers. So if you are the kind of person who struggles with retaining details while reading, this is one advantage to taking the new SAT over the ACT.
  • The Essay: If you decide to take the essay portion of either the new SAT or the ACT, it’s important that you know the differences between the two. First of all, the new SAT gives you 50 minutes to write the essay, while the ACT gives you 40 minutes. On the new SAT, you will be asked to read an passage and analyze how the author builds a persuasive argument, using evidence from the text. You are no longer asked to agree or disagree with a stance or write about a personal experience. On the ACT, you have to (1) read and analyze three different perspectives on a given issue, (2) develop your own perspective, and (3) explain the relationship between your perspective and those given.

The verdict? If you have to choose one over the other, do your research and see which is best for you. It may also be helpful to take a practice test for each one and see how you score.

Insight Tutoring Center, a local and convenient tutoring and SAT/ACT prep center, offers free consultations to help determine which test might be best for you.

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Time Management in the New School Year

fall leaves back to school

Leaves are changing colors, pumpkin spice lattes are on the menus of coffee shops, and the air is starting to turn brisk – fall is here, and with it a new school year. As we head back to school, we must make that switch from lazy summer days to the world of early morning alarms, tests, and sports practices. Time is essential, and we all must make the best use of every single minute.

Here are some tips to improve our time management:stressed student

The (In)Famous “To-Do” List
We’ll start here, since this is one of the best strategies to improve your time management capabilities. Make a to-do list. Every day. Although this may soundto-do list back to school time-consuming and unnecessary, writing out a list of everything you need to do helps to visualize your tasks, and makes them much more manageable. Put the most important (and time-sensitive) tasks on the top of the list. Each time you complete one of the items on your list, cross it off. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment each time you are able to slash through another task. And don’t worry if you don’t get to everything on your list (as long as they are not crucial and time-sensitive). Just start the next day’s list with those that you have rolled over. Don’t do this too often though! It’s a slippery slope to procrastination (which you will read about soon)…

Know When to Say “No”

We can only do so much. Know your limits and when you are overextending yourself. If you are up to item #20 in your daily to-do list, it is probably time to start scaling back. While it is good to be involved in school, everything must be done in moderation. Evaluate what is most important to you, and then decide what you can cut back on.

Review Your Notes Every Day
A few minutes each day reviewing your notes will come a long way when it is time to prepare for a test. Each day, spend a few minutes going over your notes. Many times when taking notes in class, we are more concerned with getting everything down than truly understanding the material. Going over the notes a second time will help make the material more memorable. Also, it will help identify potentigoals targetal confusions that you can look up yourself or ask about in class. Which brings up another tip – seek help as you go, not the day before the test. Don’t let it become overwhelming.

Set Goals
Eliminate those Sunday-evening blues. Instead of dreading going back to school that week, be optimistic and set yourself some goals for the week. Each day, set towards achieving those goals and evaluate your progress.

Travel With Your Work
Always have something on you – whether it is an upcoming assignment, class notes, or a study guide for an upcoming test. In our daily routines, we often find ourselves waiting. Waiting for the doctor, waiting for the dentist, waiting to start practice, waiting at the bus stop, waiting on the bus. Take advantage of this time to study for an upcoming test, read over that day’s class notes, or start outlining for that upcoming essay. It is amazing how much you can get down with that down time.

organized books schoolStay Organized!
Don’t allow yourself to get unorganized – it is a huge time waster! Keep everything organized – your room, your notes, your backpack. It will make finding things so much easier, and will save time in every aspect of your life – especially when it comes to studying. 

And Lastly …. Don’t Procrastinate
If there is something you can do today, do it today – don’t wait until tomorrow. When you procrastinate, you push everything to the last minute, leaving you with no time to complete all of your tasks. Furthermore, when you leave yourself with a limited deadline for getting things done, stress becomes a factor. And we are all less productive and efficient when we are stressed out. Setting a schedule, and sticking to it, is one of the most valuable tools you can use to manage your time.

If you are struggling with time management and need some help getting organized, contact a local tutoring center, which can help with subject tutoring and skill development.