The ACT science section is notoriously intimidating to students, and it is a reason that many students opt not to take the ACT at all! While the section is definitely not for everyone, in my experience tutoring students, many students exceed their expectations and end up conquering the science section in the end.
I’m bad at science – should I skip the ACT?
Not necessarily! I’ve had many students who consider themselves “bad” at science who end up excelling on the ACT science section. It is more of a reading section than a science section, in my opinion.
What makes it so difficult?
The science section is unlike any other science test you’ve encountered in school. It doesn’t test (much) factual knowledge learned in school, but rather tests your ability to synthesize information from tables, charts, graphs, and short passages. The unfamiliarity makes many students underestimate their ability. Further,...
There are few things more nerve wracking than taking an important test at the last moment! This puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on the test taker. I recommend planning on taking the test three times, but also leaving space for even more retakes to leave the option open.
The SAT and ACT test such a wide array of topics and rules that cramming is essentially impossible. Try to relax as much as possible the night before your test. Don’t stay up late, don’t watch stressful content, don’t cram information, and don’t do any other activity that will cause your mind to race the night before your exam.
Go to sleep as early as possible. It might take you some time to fall asleep, and the last thing you need is to stress out about not being able to fall asleep. Having a well rested and focused mind is key to getting your best...
We are at the height of the test prep season, and many people are wondering what to do in the upcoming months to maximize the remaining testing dates.
Hopefully all Juniors have already started test preparation or will be very soon – the spring dates are popular for a good reason! If you’ve already taken one test, then I suggest planning on 1-2 more. I’ve found that most students hit their best possible score within the first 3 tries. Taking the ACT in April and June or the SAT in May or June might land you with your desired score before the school year ends. That leaves the fall dates as fallbacks in case you want to go for a higher score.
Sophomores should start planning out their first steps – if you are currently in Algebra 2 (or beyond), you can start testing as soon as you’d like! The summer is a great time to invest in test preparation; in fact it is my favorite time! It’s a nice long...
I am frequently asked which test dates are easier or harder. Many people think the fall tests will have “easier” curves because you are competing against seniors retaking the test (who I guess we assume are going to get lower scores...) and that the spring tests are “harder” because you are competing against more motivated students.
It IS true that some tests are easier than others.
Tests do vary in difficulty from administration to administration – or more specifically, individual sections of the test vary in difficulty.
The tests aren’t curved in the traditional sense.
Test takers aren’t curved against the students taking the test the same month as them – it’s a complicated process, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you are testing at the same time as more motivated or less skilled test takers
It doesn’t matter.
Do not choose a test date based on...
After decades of paper and pencil exams, the SAT has made the leap to digital testing. While there are many benefits to the digital exam, there are definitely some drawbacks when you compare it to the paper version.
Built in calculator
Timer on the screen
Scores come out sooner
Reading passages are shorter
Math appears to be very similar to the old version
It’s difficult to mark up reading passages
Lack of practice material
Reading passages are shorter but appear to be much harder
The College Board is not transparent about scoring
Who will take the digital SAT?
This version of the test will be available to US based students starting in the spring of 2024, so current sophomores and younger will see this version of the SAT
Can it be taken at home?
No – the digital SAT must be taken at an official test center.
Should I or my student take the digital SAT or stick with the ACT?
I recommend taking a practice digital SAT and...
Not all questions are created equally – but they all count the same!
In the math sections, there is a mix of easy, medium, and hard questions, but every question is worth the same when it comes to your score.
You can predict where the hard questions will be
The questions go from easy to hard on the math portion of the tests (on the SAT the multiple choice...
Spring is the most popular time for juniors to begin taking the SAT and ACT, but many families are unsure of which test to sign up for, how many tests to take, and when to begin preparation.
When to begin
Sooner is better, especially for juniors. While it seems like there is a huge amount of time before applications are due, you want to leave ample time to prepare, test, and retest, plus some extra time as a buffer in case something goes wrong (such as illness, test cancellations, etc). I recommend taking your first SAT in March and your first ACT in February (April at the very latest). It’s a good idea to plan on a second test during the spring semester, leaving room for a third test in the fall if needed.
For sophomores, you should plan on having about half of Algebra 2 completed before taking your first official test. However, many students benefit from beginning test preparation in the summer of their junior year (since this is a lower stress period with more...
The PSAT is a practice SAT that is available for students to take between 8th and 11th grades. These tests are great practice for the SAT, as the format and content are very similar to those of the SAT (although the various PSATs are a bit easier and less complex than the SAT). PSAT prep is the same as SAT prep, as the tests are extremely similar.
If you are planning to take the SAT, then it’s a good idea to take the PSAT. Since colleges do not see PSAT scores, the PSAT is risk free practice. If you score very high on the 11th grade PSAT/NMSQT, then you have a chance to compete for the National Merit Scholarship.
Each PSAT has a score range that is somewhat lower than the 400-1600 range of the SAT.
PSAT 8/9 – this is taken in 8th and/or 9th grade. The score range is 240-1440. The concepts tested are grade appropriate, and this test is less complex than the other PSATs and the SAT.
PSAT 10 – this...
Many parents want to know whether their seniors still have a shot at the SAT or ACT – and the answer is yes! How many shots depends on your students’ application plans.
Early Decision/Early Action
If you are applying for regular decision or early action, the October SAT is likely your last opportunity! (Bear in mind that school policies vary, and some schools may accept a November SAT score for early decision/early action). Some schools may also accept an October ACT for early decision/early action (check with your schools to see if they will accept an October ACT score).
For regular decision students, you have a few more chances. The October, November, and December SAT dates are opportunities to retake the test ahead of January deadlines, along with the October and December ACT dates.
Deadlines & Score Release Dates
October 1 SAT Regular registration deadline is 9/2, late registration deadline...
Levels of math
The vast majority of math on both the SAT and ACT consists of pre-algebra, algebra 1 and 2, geometry, and trigonometry. Any student who has learned these topics is ready to take the SAT or ACT. You do not need to take pre-calculus to do well on the math section of either test.
Differences between the tests