Navigating the college planning and admissions process can be stressful and confusing for anyone. Capable high school students with helpful parents as well as independent students with packed resumes may still stumble during the process, thanks to all of the conflicting information they receive about taking the ACT or the SAT.
Here at The Brain Domain, we’re experts at helping students navigate the complex college application process to achieve their desired college admission results. Our method has worked for countless students, and it will work for you too! Here’s your guide to navigating these all-important tests.
Should I take the ACT or the SAT?
The short answer is we can walk you through our process that will help us determine which test plays to your strengths, rather than your weaknesses. The process includes the following steps:
- You fill out our online form for our summer test prep workshops or contact us for 1:1 prep.
- After we receive your form, we will personally give you a call to discuss your current grade level, previous scores, your goal score, colleges of interest, previous test prep, and learning style.
- Prior to the beginning, you will take a full-length official practice ACT or the SAT exam at home and send us the results for us to review.
- We recommend taking the ACT or the SAT up to three times as that usually results in the highest test scores.
What to Look Out for When Preparing for the ACT or the SAT
It’s important to use an ethical tutoring center when preparing for these crucial college admissions tests. For example, at The Brain Domain, we prefer to use official practice tests from the College Board and ACT because it’s important for students to get a feel for the language and types of questions they will experience on the exam.
Some popular test prep companies train students for the official exams, but they create their own exams. Why do they do this? So they can claim that they raise ACT or SAT test scores. However, they’re actually inflating the scores artificially by crafting more difficult exams first and giving easier versions at the end of the course. Ultimately, the success rates they claim are not based on actual practice ACT or SAT exams, so you are unlikely to achieve the test results you need to get into the college you want to attend.
Nothing will prepare you for the college readiness exams like taking the practice tests administered by the same people who design the real ACT and SAT! Our coaching and tutoring use the results from these exams to help you improve your score when it comes time for the real thing.
A few other potential issues to look out for when preparing for college admissions exams include college students teaching the tutoring classes or courses that have over 25 students.
Preparing for college is a big deal because where you end up attending influences trajectories in adulthood. Ideally, you would select a qualified, experienced professional with a track record of success helping students get into their desired college, rather than an inexperienced college student who hasn’t yet had to answer for their results.
An SAT or ACT prep course that includes over 25 students doesn’t allow for personalized student attention…which could mean the difference between getting into your dream school or your second choice college.
At The Brain Domain, we rarely have more than 15 students per class because we want to help every student who comes through our doors. We find our students receive better results and higher scores when the class sizes are smaller.
When Should I Start Preparing for the ACT or SAT?
Parent and students are commonly confused about when a student should begin preparing for the ACT or the SAT.
Ideally, a prospective college student would take their exam their junior year of high school. This means high school sophomores should begin test prep during the school year or no later than the summer they leave tenth grade.
If you’re a junior who has not yet started their ACT or SAT test prep, don’t panic! We can create a customized plan to get you ready for the college admissions process.
I Heard the Math Portion of the ACT is Hard. I’m Not Good at Math! Should I Take the SAT?
The Brain Domain’s process is a reliable way to determine which test is best for you to take. We use this process because the ACT and the SAT have unique similarities and differences, and the nature of both tests is such that a student shouldn’t use a test description to decide which exam they should take.
Both the ACT and the SAT do not penalize for incorrect answers to questions. Both exams have an optional essay section; however, we recommend all of our students take the essay portion of either the ACT or the SAT because this will make them more successful during the college application process. Some colleges require the essay portion, and some do not, so it’s best to do the essay section just in case you do later add a school that does require it.
Part of our strategy includes understanding which features of each test a student will succeed or struggle with.
Top reasons why the SAT may be the best option for you:
- You have strong reading comprehension skills.
- You can do basic math without a calculator.
- You will do better with a list of formulas during the math section of the exam.
- You have an understanding of scientific concepts but don’t want to take an entire science section of a college admissions exam.
- You are strong in data analysis and algebra.
- You experience test anxiety when there are too many questions into short of a time (the SAT has fewer questions in the amount of time given.)
Reasons why the SAT may not be the best option for you:
- Reading comprehension is not your strength.
- You require a calculator for math.
- You require multiple choice format for math.
- You’re comfortable with and good at trigonometry and geometry.
Do you think you would be better off preparing for and taking the SAT? Sign up here for SAT test prep summer workshops or contact us for 1:1 test prep year-round! *Note: we require at least 3 months prior to your test for 1:1 test prep*
Top reasons why the ACT may be the best option for you:
- You’re able to read and understand test questions quickly.
- You prefer questions to be written in straightforward language, eliminating the need to reread the question to understand it.
- You prefer a calculator to do the math on a test.
- You’re good at trigonometry and geometry and have taken pre-cal.
- You enjoy analyzing graphs and tables.
- You’re comfortable taking a math exam without any references to formulas.
- You prefer multiple choice on math exams.
- You’re comfortable with science questions and can read graphs and tables. (The SAT does not test on science reasoning the way the ACT does.)
Reasons why the ACT may not be the best option for you:
- You require a reference list of formulas during the math section of the ACT.
- You are not strong in geometry and trigonometry.
- You get anxious when there are many test questions in a limited amount of time.
- You prefer test questions to be orderly. (The ACT jumps around with the flow of questions.)
Do you think you would be better off preparing for and taking the ACT? Sign up here for ACT test prep summer workshops or contact us for 1:1 test prep year-round! *Note: we require at least 3 months prior to your test for 1:1 test prep*
I’m Still Not Sure if I Should Take the ACT or the SAT?!
It’s a tough decision! That’s why we’re here to help you make that call. But, here’s a little more information to help guide you:
- Where do you want to apply to college? Typically, all schools, including top schools accept the ACT while not every school will take the SAT (though most will.)
- The SAT is 3 hours and 55 minutes long with an essay. The ACT is 3 hours and 40 minutes long with an essay portion.
- The ACT score maxes out at 36 while the SAT score maxes out at 1600.
- Questions on the ACT are more direct and easier to understand, while questions on the SAT are asked in a more indirect, sometimes less clear, fashion.
Are You a Sophomore or Junior? Test Prep Starts NOW!
Preparing for college admissions testing is best done with a college test prep expert and in a timely fashion. If you’re a high school sophomore or junior preparing for the college admissions process, don’t delay signing up for our test prep classes today.
Contact us today or sign up for our summer workshops!