FAQ - Test Information & Timing
All juniors who have completed Algebra II should consider using the August SAT leading up to their junior year and/or the October test during their junior year as a first testing option. This allows sufficient time to determine any areas that need extra emphasis prior to other test dates (Nov/Dec/Mar/May/June). Exception for athletes: if possible, avoid test dates that correspond to major athletic commitments. Parents should always plan around all students' busy spring activities and the need for taking subject tests. For the ACT, juniors should consider beginning with the September and/or October test of their junior year. The ACT offers the TIR (Test Information Release) for their December, April, and June test dates. This is a report that provides the test questions, correct answers, and student answers. This is a valuable resource in evaluating specific areas needing focus/review.
The content of English class is not the same as the tested subject matter of the SAT or ACT Reading sections. The SAT Reading section and the ACT section both require the student to read "boring" passages and answer questions in a very literal way. Both tests require this type of literal thinking in a strictly timed format. Many students develop a form of "AP English Disease" which leads to over analysis and poor SAT/ACT performance. Some students have the appropriate skills, but cannot properly manage their time. We address all of these issues in our classes.
Many students have their own calculators and are very familiar with their function which makes students comfortable on test day. Do not buy a new calculator or borrow a friend’s calculator right before a test without mastering its use. Students who use unfamiliar calculators often spent part of their testing time figuring out the calculator. Be aware that the TI89 is not allowed on the ACT but is allowed on the SAT.
Every student should consider the ACT if standardized testing is not a strong point. We highly recommend taking a full ACT practice test the summer before junior or senior year to determine the suitability of this test for each student's needs. Most colleges will use scores from either the ACT or the SAT for admission. Go to www.actstudent.org to find the practice test under the "test prep" tab. The ACT is a 3 hour and 30 minute test consisting of 4 sections. For some, the ACT is a good choice. Vocabulary is not important on the ACT and the reading comprehension section is a smaller portion of the overall score than it is on the SAT. Most colleges will use either score so there is no reason not to consider this test if the SAT is weaker than students need for the college of their choice. Since students have not taken a pretest like they have for the SAT a practice test should be considered before investing time and money into preparation for this test. The practice test can be obtained from most guidance offices as part of the registration materials available for the ACT. There is some overlap in strategies between this test and the SAT.
The reading and writing multiple-choice portions of the PSAT are exactly the same difficulty level as those sections on the SAT. The math portion of the PSAT does not include all the skills that can be included on the SAT so students sometimes can score higher on that than they can on the SAT math. Athletes and students with high GPA's should attempt to score well on the PSAT since that score can be requested by coaches who are showing an early interest in an athlete and can be used as the beginning of a scholarship search for students with high GPA's. For all other students, the PSAT is a practice forum for the SAT and high scores could qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.
Is the PSAT easier or harder than the actual SAT and why is the PSAT very important to some students?
No, that belief is a persistent myth. A very small number of colleges use the best overall score from one sitting for the SAT. Most institutions mix and match subscores. Additionally, when using the ACT most use the composite score.