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Presentation: Should I Take the ACT or the SAT?

In the busy life of a high school student there are tests, homework, quizzes, sports, and even more to prepare for, so it is easy to put the SAT/ACT on hold or forget about it altogether, until it’s too late.  In my 10 years of experience with SAT and ACT tests, I have worked with numerous families, helping them become educated about the SAT and ACT tests, and how to best tackle them.  So whether you are a freshman just learning about these two tests, or a senior just now planning for the tests, I want to break down the ACT and SAT, answering some common questions in order that you may be prepared for these challenging tests.

Who makes the ACT and SAT tests?

In 1926, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was first administered by Collegeboard to 8,000 students. Thirty-three years later, the American College Test (ACT) was first administered by ACT to 75,000 students to provide an alternative test to the SAT. So although, the ACT is “newer” than the SAT, both tests have been around for quite some time.  Furthermore, both were created in order to determine a student’s readiness for college.

How do the ACT and SAT compare?

As a general rule, if your have not taken a practice test yet, you should take a diagnostic test to assess your strengths and weaknesses (Oxford Tutoring offers diagnostic test for both the ACT and the SAT).  Usually, if you perform well with critical reasoning skills and analysis, then the better-suited test is the SAT.  However, if you work quickly and prefer questions that are content-based, the ACT will probably be the better option.  There are students who excel at both, and they are students who struggle with both, but it will always be about maximizing your score.

Why do I need to take the ACT or SAT?

Back in the 1960s, less than 200,000 students took these tests.  Now, with the pressure to outperform other students, over 3.2 million student took these tests in 2014 alone.  Also, a lot of colleges have become more selective such as UCLA who they only accepts 6,632, out of the 105,000 annual applicants. As a result,  when aiming for these schools, you really need to your best effort into this test.  Thankfully, all four-year universities will take either test, so you should focus on the test that is best suited to your capabilities.  You can use BigFuture to find more information about the college application requirements for specific schools.

When should I take for the ACT or SAT?

Generally, the SAT is taken in the fall and ACT is taken in the spring of your Junior year.  However, due to potential conflicts in your schedule, there are other opportunities that you may find better suited based your availability and course load.  The SAT is offered seven times a year in the months of October, November, December, January, March, May, and June.  While the ACT is offered 6 times a year in the months of September, October, December, February, April, and June.  So pick a test date that works best for you and your schedule.

Where can I take the ACT or SAT?

When your child registers for the test, he or she can pick a location nearby based on zip code.  Most of the time it will be Junior colleges, or high schools.  It is important to register early for these tests, as the better test-taking locations will run out space, forcing you may have to travel either very far or have a test location that is full of unnecessary distraction and difficulties.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Despite what the makers of these tests state online, there have been multiple studies that show that both of these tests are teachable, and that 3585052105_1052a5e228_zyour education in school may not be necessarily enough to be adequately prepared.  Secondly, not all tutoring programs are the same, and cost does not necessarily guarantee results.  When looking at a program you will want to check to see what results they have earned, make sure it fits within your family budget, and that you are motivated to earn your desired score.

Meet the author: David Lord is the SAT and ACT Director and Math and Science Instructor at Oxford Tutoring Center in Orange County, California. He has helped hundreds of students achieve the SAT and ACT test scores they want and accepted into their desired college. He reaches his students through challenging them and asking questions to make sure they are absorbing the material they are being taught.

Prepare for the ACT or SAT with Oxford Tutoring courses and private tutoring.  Call us today! (949) 681-0388.



Oxford Tutoring specializes in K-12 tutoring in English, mathematics, science and test preparation. We provide skill building and homework help in private, one-on-one sessions coordinated with our student’s classroom programs, but focused on the way in which each student learns. Working to better each student’s academic success, Oxford Tutoring personalizes our tutoring approach to best meet the education needs of our students.

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