Navigating the ACT and SAT
Nervous about standardized testing? CollegeAdvisor is here for you!
Join Admissions Expert Maria Acosta Robayo as she shares tips and tricks for preparing for the SAT and ACT so you can feel confident and ready to do your best during a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session.
In this webinar, you’ll have all your questions answered including:
- How do I prepare for standardized tests?
- What resources are available to help me study?
- How many times should I take the SAT or ACT?
Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-12-14 – Navigating the ACT and SAT
Hi everyone. Good evening. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a Senior Advisor at CollegeAdvisor and I will be your moderator today. Welcome to today’s webinar, which is Navigating the ACT and SAT. To orient everyone with the webinar timing. Our presenter will share some tips, resources, and guidance, and then we will open up the floor to respond to your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar, you can download our slides on the handouts tab and you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab.
Please only submit your questions in the Q&A tab. Now let’s meet our presenter, Maria. Hi Maria. Hi everyone. My name is Maria Acosta Robayo and I, uh, graduated from the class of 2020 from Harvard where I studied sociology and global health policy and where I was also on the pre-med track. Um, I currently work, um, from Washington DC I’m home in Miami for the holidays, for anyone who is in a tropical or celebrating a tropical holiday.
Uh, and I currently, uh, do government consulting as well as, uh, being a Senior Advisor, giving, um, working here at CollegeAdvisor. Uh, so they got some double Harvard. I’m also a Harvard alum, so if there are Harvard specific questions, we’ll try to address them, but we’ll keep it focused on the SAT and ACT for now.
Uh, before we get into the presentation, we did want to take a quick poll and for you also let us know which tests are you planning to take. Um, so for those in the room, let us know if you’re leaning towards the ACT, SAT or you’re unsure. Um, as we think about it. Um, do you have a favorite food place that you missed from Harvard or in, uh, Cambridge as we’re waiting for some responses come in.
Yeah, so I’m actually going back to Boston for a wedding this weekend and, uh, or Cambridge, and I’m looking forward to going to Zans. I don’t know if anyone’s been to Cambridge yet, but it was a really good Belgian waffle place. Um, could go for breakfast, but mostly it’s just desserts, dessert, waffles. Wait, say it again.
What’s the name? Zans. So it’s right on Mass Ave. Okay. I was there when I was there. Um, I gotta go back there. Um, sounds good. I love Abel, your waffle. Um, Okay. All right. Um, thanks for folks for taking the time to submit some questions or responses to the poll. I’m gonna go ahead and close it, and I’ll just let you know, Maria, as an fyi, about 13% of people are planning to take the ACT, 33% of people are planning to take the SAT. About 40% are planning to take both. Um, and the last 15% are undecided. So maybe we’ll, we’ll nudge some of the undecided folks in one direction or the other, or give some context to folks. But I will start talking and, uh, hand it over to you.
Perfect. Um, yeah, so I’m really excited to be talking a little bit more about SAT and SAT, ACT and SAT prep and, uh, which one might be the right fit for you.
Um, so just to start off, let’s talk a little bit about. What impact does the testing actually have on your application? Because a lot of times it feels like testing is just the biggest thing the schools consider, and that’s actually not true. It’s one of many different factors that schools consider. Uh, some schools, especially after Covid, uh, after the Covid pandemic, decided to go test optional or test blind.
And so this is one thing that is available, um, for students if they want that extra data. For schools that are, uh, do require the SAT/ACT, make sure you do take that, uh, one of those two tests. Um, but just wanted to kind of set the ground rules of, this is one of many different factors. Um, so it helps you to get like on the bubble or on the cusp of consideration.
What that means is, um, especially for a lot of like the Ivy League schools or a lot of the high highly ranked schools, one of the things that they wanna make sure, um, is, uh, or they wanna look at is your academic rigor. And so the ACT/SAT standardized prep in general, alongside with your GPA and other quantitative factors, just helps them to give an idea of your history of academic rigor.
Um, um, so it’s again, one of many things they consider. So what actually is the standardized test? Like, what can you, which ones can you actually take? So, um, you might, these are some that you might have heard, some are discontinued, but I just wanna make sure we talk about them in case, uh, they’re on your mind and you wanna make sure that you’re not, uh, forgetting one of these tests.
So, uh, the PSAT or the pre-SAT that you just call it PSAT for short, um, is actually not a test you would submit to a college, but is one that you could take in preparation for the SAT. Then there’s the SAT, uh, the SAT two, those are called, um, what you might have, uh, like heard is probably like SAT subject tests, and these are the ones that are discontinued.
So, just to be super clear about this, this is not a test you have to take, but for those of you who might have heard about it, who might be wondering what that is, uh, this is something you wouldn’t be, uh, you wouldn’t even be able to take, um, the ACT, which is the counterparts of the SAT, um, the TOEFL for, uh, international students who are trying to show English proficiency and the AP exams.
So these, uh, the AP exams are the only ones where you actually usually take like a class in school that’s a graded class. Um, so let’s talk first about what is the, um, the SAT and the actual test process. So, um, it’s ad admin administered seven times per year in the us. Um, and it’s between, uh, it’s around three hours and 50 minutes with the highest score being 1600.
Um, and that score is split up into two sections. The first is math, where the maximum you can get is 800, and the second is further split into two sections that are evidence-based reading and writing. Um, and so just to dive in a little bit more into those sections, the math is 80 minutes and 58 questions.
And that will test, um, different topics like algebra, problem solving, data analysis, and some of advanced math, uh, the EBRW. So those that writing and the evidence-based reading, um, those will be broken up into helping, uh, testing your understanding of complex passages. You might get like snippets of passages and then questions that ask you to, uh, be able to analyze what you read.
Um, and then an identifying words in context, the writing and language tests, more of your grammar and your argument building abilities. So those are usually shorter. It’s not a passage, but rather probably a sentence. Um, uh, and then your, uh, the optional essay, which is 50 minutes. Not all schools, uh, require you to do this, but some may.
And so make sure that you are, uh, paying attention to that. Um, and then the ACT. So this is usually the biggest question, like what’s the difference between the SAT/ACT we’re gonna get there, and that’s strict comparison, but I’ll just deep dive into each one first. Um, so the ACT, like the SAT is also administered seven times a year in the US.
Uh, it’s slightly shorter at three hours and 35 minutes, and the highest score is 36. And I’ll talk a little bit more about how that’s calculated. Um, and your score is split between English, math, reading, and science. So that’s the big portion that’s different. Um, and when I say science, it’s not like, you know, in-depth questions about chemistry or in-depth questions about biology.
Rather, it’s, it’s more like science analysis. Like are you able to read a graph about an experiment and be able to tell like, what are some of the findings? That’s usually the type of science that’s being measured. It’s still, uh, being able to have an analytical mind, but in the field of.
Um, so as I mentioned, you can score up to 30 or so. The grading is a little bit different here for the ACT cuz it’s not just made up of 800 in one section and 800 in another. Like the SAT rather in each section you can get up to 36 and what happens is that you just get the average of all four sections and that’s your cumulative score.
Um, so, or your composite score. Um, in the English section it’s 75 questions in about 45 minutes. Uh, and similar to the SAT, it tests grammar and usage, punctuation sentence structure, strategy, organization and style. So again, those might be a little bit more of like shorter questions where you, uh, un like you got a chance to prove that.
Like you can tell different syntax. You can tell different gram um, grammatical rules. Um, then math is 60 minutes for 60 questions. Um, and it has pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plain geometry, and trigonometry. So you might already have seen these in your classes.
For some of you, maybe you took it, took it really early on and need a brush up for others. Maybe you haven’t gotten to this in your classes yet. So I would take, um, if you’re in that boat, I would just. . This is not doing a deep dive into everything that you would learn in a full year class. It is things that you can study through reading, uh, a practice book or taking a prep course.
Um, so I, I mentioned these topics, not to say like you have to be an expert in all of them, but rather so that you don’t get blindsided going into a test and saying like, oh, you know, there’s cord in a geometry. That’s something that like, I didn’t learn in school. That’s totally fine. You can learn what you need for the test from a prep class or reading a book.
Um, one of the prep books. Then, um, the reading section is 40 questions and 35 minutes. and that, uh, test reading comprehension of what is directly stated or implied so that, uh, what that actually means very practically is you’ll probably read, uh, a passage, you’ll get a chance to, again, do some analysis of like what actually was said.
Uh, that might be something that’s like very clear. You can just find the answer and like highlight it. Or maybe it’s something that you have to like understand, okay, what was the intent behind this, uh, this passage? What was trying to be communicated? And so that’s the more implied part. Um, and then the section that’s not in the SAT at all on the, yeah, in the SAT at all is the science.
So that is interpretation analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving. So again, pretty much lengthening out the explanation that I gave about, it’s not actually like a specific topical content, like, you know, a biology or chemistry or physics. It’s more so are you able to evaluate findings? Are you able to read charts and graphs?
Um, and then like the SAT, there’s also an optional essay that’s only 40, 40 minutes.
All right. Um, before we kind of continue on in our presentation, we have a quick little commercial here for you all regarding some essay packages. So for the seniors in the space, uh, we are providing essay only editing packages for the next few weeks. Um, application deadlines are right around the corner, and if you want to make sure that your supplemental essays are in tip top shape, we have new essay editing packages.
These packages are designed for those of you who are in the thick of the application process and who aren’t yet working with CollegeAdvisor. Uh, if you register for a package, you’ll receive two rounds of unbiased and expert, uh, reviews for essay all within 72 hours or less. You can use the QR code that is on the screen and sign up for an essay editing package if you feel like that would be helpful for you in these last few weeks of the process.
All right, I will hand it back over to. Maria, thanks for letting me do that quick little commercial. Sure thing. Thank you. Um, so now that we did those two deep dives into the SAT and the ACT. Um, I’ll just do a side-by-side comparison of both, just so you can get a better sense of which one might be a best fit for you.
So, as you can tell on the left hand side, there’s the SAT on the right hand side, the ACT, it pretty much just side-by-side shows like why, like why should you take this? Um, that’s the same for both. A lot of times that helps you to maybe qualify for a scholarship, uh, show some, uh, some of your schools also like the academic rigor that you have.
Um, it breaks down the test, the test structure, the length. Um, it also breaks down some of the nuanced differences. So for example, like in reading you only have, uh, four passages in the ACT, but you have five on the SAT. Um, you might not have any science. Oh, you don’t have any science at all in the SAT.
Um, what I would focus on a little bit more is the calculator policy, just because that’s important. You know, to know if you should bring your, if you’re expected to use a calculator, so for example, um, the SAT doesn’t allow some questions, uh, to, uh, use a calculator. But in your ACT you can use a calculator on all the math questions.
And so that’s important for you to know so that you’re prepared with one or my, you know, you, you don’t necessarily have to answer that question using like, uh, doing the math by hand. You can use a calculator. And two, uh, making sure you bring the right materials to the, uh, to the testing center. Um, and then as you’re thinking about which one you should actually take, I would, I would think a little bit more about what are your strengths.
So maybe you are in a lot, a lot of classes that you have to do some graph analysis, or you have to think a little bit more on like the science side, how to do an experiment, how to read findings, and maybe that’s a skillset that you really wanna showcase. And so maybe in that case, the ACT is better for you.
Um, maybe for, um, someone who wants to spend more time on the math, maybe that’s something that like the SAT would be better for you. Um, so I would think a little bit more about those differences. And then I also put the link there from where this chart is, and it’s linked to like an actual article where you can hear a little bit more about, uh, which might be the right, uh, fit for different students.
Um, so when do students actually first take the, um, standardized tests? Uh, standard tests in general? So, uh, the timeline usually goes, the PSAT you can take, um, you can take as early as eighth grade, but really most students seek a 10th and 11th grade, not because, it’s usually because you like will actually get to those topics until 10th and 11th grade.
You won’t necessarily get to the right math level or the reading level. Um, but again, some students might take that in eighth grade because they want to, uh, just get a, a better sense for the s uh, for the test and their school provides it. And so it’s like free test prep. Um, I would say the one that matters is, um, your 11th grade score, because that’s the one that’s actually considered for National Merit Scholarship.
Um, so again, the PSAT to be super clear, is not something you would turn into your college, but it in 11th grade, it is useful for. The National Merit Scholarship, which is, uh, very competitive, less, less than, uh, the top 1% go on to take fi to be a finalist. Um, the more important one, the SAT/ACT, those usually students start their junior year and some continue into senior year.
But I really don’t recommend taking it your senior year because you’re probably already stressed with writing essays. Uh, you know, things are picking up in school, especially if you’re taking more advanced courses. And so I really recommend getting, um, the SAT/ACT done your junior year. Um, some take it during the summer and that could be a good time.
Um, I do recommend, uh, the students that work with me, um, to do their essays during the summer. And so a lot of times if you know, you’re also trying to enjoy your summer, it’s not super fun to have to study for standardized tests and also write your essays. So a lot of the students I work with try to take it before the end of their junior, their junior year.
Um, and lastly, AP test, that’s the other one that, the other standardized test that we had been talking about at the beginning of this presentation. Um, and that’s usually based on the year that you take the course, right? So if you’re taking AP US history this year, you’d probably be taking the AP test, AP US history test in May.
Um, however, there are some students who decide like, you know, this is a course where I like, you know, I’ve taken a lot of other classes about this. I’ve studied specifically for this AP test. Um, my school doesn’t offer the test, but I’d really like to take it. There are options for those students. And so, If you maybe didn’t know about that and haven’t really prepped for it, you could look, uh, you could talk more with your college, um, with your school counselor and see if that’s an option.
Um, I would just say please be, uh, really mindful and thoughtful about whether, um, you are preparing to take the test well, because it’s not just the content, it’s also the, the structure of the test. You might not be familiar with the type of essay questions or the type of, um, just the way things are formatted on the AP test, even if you know the content really well.
So I would definitely make sure that you’re talking to the pro, uh, a teacher who teaches that AP course or your, um, your school counselor to make sure that you’re prepared. Um, so what are some of the best ways to prepare for standardized testing? I think that the best way is actually taking a lot of practice tests.
Um, I know a lot of students, um, you know, work really well just being like self-taught with like a book and they go through a Princeton Review or a Kaplan. Others, uh, really like going through courses and like it’s really helpful to be in an environment where others are asking questions, we’re able to collaborate.
Some others like to take individual one-on-one, uh, tutoring. So all of those strategies are great. I would say regardless of what strategy you choose, a big part of that is supplementing it with practice tasks because that’s actually where you get experience on the ground taking the tasks in that timing.
And so, um, I, uh, my own personal experience was just taking a ton of practice tasks and that I think prepared me more than, uh, a class could have. Um, so that’s, that’s my usual recommendation. Um, and then for the day of the test, um, there is a couple things that, again, this is not like a key to success, but it is things that could potentially help.
For example, eating a good breakfast with a low glycemic level, a glycemic index. So that means like, uh, oatmeal, whole grain breakfast sandwich, something that’s, again, lower in energy and or lower in. And that’s because if it’s lowing glycemic index, it’ll actually help you to maintain, uh, the, your levels of energy for longer instead of having that like sugar peak and then like dropping maybe in the middle of the test.
Um, and so again, this is not a key to success, but I think it’s gonna be helpful if you’re not having like an energy crash in the middle of the test on top of having to remember everything that you’ve studied. Um, getting a good night’s sleep, again, not a key, necessarily a key to success, but, um, or like the one, one key to success, but definitely something that’s really helpful and important, being able to really focus, being able to remember, um, it is really important during the test.
So having a good a plus hour sleep the night before can be really helpful. Um, obviously different. people process like sleep differently and you have different sleep needs. But I would say whatever your, whatever makes you feel the most rested is the amount of hours you should definitely get the night before.
Um, I think another thing that’s really helpful is just waking up with a lot of time. Um, and the reason I say that is because you don’t wanna sit down at the test all like, um, worried and like having like rushed over to the test center and being a little frazzled. Um, even if you’re a fantastic test taker, that’s not a great disposition to start your test with.
It’s better to, you know, be able to take your breakfast calmly, drive calmly to the d to the test center, sign up, have time to just like process and, and get, um, get focused. Um, so I would definitely say, you know, wake up with plenty of time. Um, and I say this also in combination with double checking your test center the night before, because actually this is my own experience.
I actually signed up for the wrong test center. Um, and I woke up early enough to actually notice and make that change and I had to drive like half an hour across town to get to the other test center. Um, and so I think it was really important for me to like, one wake up early and two, I wish I had, uh, double checked my test center.
Um, gimme one second. I’m gonna sneeze real quick and I’ll be right back on.
Sorry. Um, uh, and then the other thing I would say is make sure you’re, um, you’re prepping your test taking materials ahead of time. You don’t wanna maybe forget your calculator or, um, you know, like an eraser for the test. So it’s, um, I think most test centers will have some extra pencils just in case, but I would make sure that if.
you know, you’re taking, um, actually either test you make sure you bring your calculator. Um, and lastly, I would say take a deep breath and remember that you’re a lot more than just your test score. This is again, one of the many things college admissions, uh, college admissions officers will consider. But also it’s much more than like even your, um, your GPA and all these other quantitative things.
Like you might not be a great test taker and that doesn’t necessarily reflect on your academic rigor entirely. That’s just a preference. Not all, uh, people who do really well in school and who are extremely intelligent are necessarily great test takers. And so I would put this into your perspective. Um, and, and yeah, just recognize that this is one of many things admissions officers are, are looking at, and that you’re so much more than your test score.
Um, and. As you’re thinking about how to prepare for standardized tests, um, also something that’s like really good to think about is a timeline for the college application process. So I would say that this is my suggested timeline. Students have done it differently, but usually I say start prepping the summer before sophomore year.
Again, some of you may already have past that zone, but that doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily in the wrong or anything. It just means this is the ideal so that you’re not stressed having to balance a lot of other things. So if you start prepping the summer before sophomore year, then your junior and your junior year, then you can actually take your first test your junior fall.
And that means that maybe you don’t get the score that you want, you can actually take it again your junior spring. Um, And then, so this gives you time to retake without pressure and to consider preparing for taking other standardized tests. Um, ultimately you do, you have to submit the scores before the application deadline.
And so as you’re thinking about your timeline, you know, maybe you are, maybe you’re, you’re a student that just works better under pressure and really wanna get close to the deadline. Um, again, I don’t necessarily recommend that cause I think it’s more stressful. It keeps you from maybe, um, if for whatever reason you don’t do grade on your test, you won’t be, maybe you won’t be able to take it again before the deadline.
Uh, but ultimately what’s important is that you’re able to submit a score that you like before the application deadline. Um, and then, uh, some colds will accept the ACT and the SAT scores after the application deadlines. But I would always ask permission, and that’s more of a rare case. Again, their policies are clearly on their website.
If there is some leniency, and that will be a one-on-one case. It shouldn’t be something that’s expected. Um, and then now I’ll, now that I’ve given like a bit more about just a general process, um, I’ll talk a little bit more about my own experience. Again, lots of students taking this across the country are definitely having different experiences with this.
So this is just one of many. Um, I took my PSAT four times, but that’s only because my school offered it and it was just kind of like a freebie, uh, thing to do in the middle of class. And so I, all of the students just took the PSAT, uh, and I really didn’t know what I was doing until my junior year when I learned about, um, the National Merit Scholarship.
Um, I then took the SAT twice. I took it, uh, in my junior year in similar timeline as I mentioned. Uh, previously I took in my, I think my junior fall. I took my first one in November, and then I took it again in March. Um, and then what I, I just used an online prep course that my school provided, um, and took a lot of practice tests and sections just to get a better sense for, um, what, like what type of questions would be on there.
Uh, and I took that SAT test consecutively just because I wanted, I didn’t really want to lose kind of my pace and my, my timing for, for the. Um, I, I was satisfied with my second score, but then, um, I was also pre-med and I wasn’t sure if I should take the a c t, uh, because it had the sign section. Again, in hindsight, it’s not necessary.
I just took it because I didn’t know if maybe I would score even higher, like with the, the ACT. And so I took it just once. I took some practice tests, some sections, and then I just took the ACT test and that’s the one that, um, that I did. Uh, I like ran from one testing center to the other the morning of.
And so I do remember that being a really hectic test. Uh, I’m glad I took both just so I could choose and have a little bit more variability on, uh, the ones that I submitted. But, um, again, uh, the, these are just an, this is just an example of like how one person did it. There may be, uh, lots of other pathways for students who are, have either taken it, seen their fronts, Um, and then the other standardized test that I took is the AP exams.
I took nine total over the course of high school, and that’s just because I was at a high school that offered a lot of different AP classes, and, um, for some of them it was a school requirement to take some of those, uh, those exams or those classes. And so that’s how I ended up taking, uh, nine. But there’s a lot of students who, who go to Harvard, who go to other Ivy Leagues, who take a lot more or a lot less.
I would say the important part is that, um, given what your school offers, that you’re consistently challenging yourself academically. So if your school does offer AP exams, and again, you’re applying to a school that has really high academic rigor, you do wanna show that you’ve challenged yourself academically by taking some of those, um, in the converse.
If your school doesn’t offer those, um, that it’s not something that you’ll be penalized, uh, by. And you also, um, there’s other options you could potentially talk to your advisor by about, such as, um, taking college, uh, college dual enrollment classes.
Um, so how important do I think that test scores are in the, in the application process? Um, so I think they’re really important in that it’s a, it’s a, like one of the factors that’s considered. And so anytime that a factor’s considered, I think it’s important and you shouldn’t just brush away, but it’s also not the most defining part of your application.
If anything, I think that actually goes to your essay. Your essay is actually the part that really makes you shine, that sets you apart from other students who might look the same on paper as you. Um, like I mentioned before, test scores, just like your gpa, just like your other quantitative scores might just get you into like the window of consideration or on the bubble.
Um, but it really is ultimately, um, helpful for you and for the admissions officer just to have an idea of academic rigor And, uh, admissions officers do know that not everyone is a good test take. Um, so some last advice that I would give to students preparing for standardized testing. I would say look through your comparison charts and try to find the best test for you, um, based on your strengths and weaknesses.
I would say maybe if you take a test and you really don’t feel comfortable with it, try taking the other test and that can maybe, um, highlight maybe one of your strengths that you did notice before. Uh, a good way to do this before you invest in actually like paying for the test and going through that process is just take a full practice test and see how you do, and then take a full practice test of the other, you know, standardized test option and see which ones you do better in.
Um, I would also say just start early. That way you don’t have to rush if you need to retake it. Um, and like I’ve said a million times, just take a lot of practice tests. I really do think that’s the best way to, to internalize and to get used to, to the essay que or to the different test questions.
Okay. Thank you so much, Maria. Um, I think we lost you. I’m not sure if you’re still there. Okay, I’m right here. Sorry, I have a bit of a cold. I just said I. Just take off camera when I need to sneeze. No worries, no worries. The fact that you can control your sneezes that well, I am, I’m thoroughly impressed.
Um, alright, so we are at the Q&A portion of our, um, webinar tonight. If you are, um, please again, uh, take the time to submit the questions, be at the Q&A tab. Please do not submit them through the chat. It’s a little distracting for us. Um, so the way that it will work, you all have submitted some questions.
I will read them aloud and give Maria an opportunity to address them and then I will make sure to share them with the public so everyone knows, uh, what questions we’re addressing. If you’re having any challenges with submitting a question, you may have to log back out and log back in via the link in your email and not through the landing page.
Uh, the first quick question for you, Maria, what AP test did you take? Um, I took my freshman year, I took AP world. Um, sophomore year I took AP Human Geo. Human geography. And then my junior year I took I think English composition, uh, AP US history. Oof. It’s been a while. Um, Calculus AB, um, I think maybe another one.
And then my senior year I took Calculus BC, english com, uh, literature, um, uh, civics or, or government and then microeconomics. So that was, that was how I split up the, the APs. And again, part of that was just I went to a school that like, My freshman and sophomore year, as you could tell, I only took one, one AP class each.
And that’s cuz I went to a different high school. My end of sophomore year I transferred to this other school that had some academic requirements that meant I had to take that many AP exams. And it also meant that they were prepared to offer those. And so, again, I say this and not everybody, I know several students at Harvard who did not take that many AP tests.
I know some that didn’t take any at all. And so I would just say it’s one of many different student profiles, um, at any school that you apply to. I, I went to Harvard and I did not take that many. I think I took five, maybe six. Um, but that was also based on what was available at my school. Some of what you mentioned wasn’t, um, available in my high school.
Again, folks, please do not submit questions via chat. Please submit them via the Q&A portal. Um, some quick questions that came up while you were talking, Maria, that I feel like it’s worth repeating. Um, what is the SAT passing score? So I did look this up on college board. There is not an official passing.
Score. But what the college boards determines is a benchmark that students will meet if they are college and career ready is a 480 on the reading and a 530 on the math. So for the SAT in particular, if you are getting a 480 on the reading and a 530 on the math, you were what college board considers college ready.
Um, and then one question, uh, for you that came up I think when you were talking about when to take tests was you, you wouldn’t recommend taking the SAT during 10th grade year? No. I personally think that it’s just a little bit better to wait until you’ve actually like taken some of the classes that are necessarily spec necessarily, especially the math.
If you’ve already taken those classes and you feel ready to go, um, I would say like you’re definitely welcome to. Um, your scores are still valid. I don’t think that they actually like expire or anything. Um, but I would just say maybe you’ll be better prepare your junior year. I also think. Ninth and 10th grade is a really just good opportunity to get used to high school.
Um, high school can be really hard and all of a sudden you go from middle school where you have maybe a couple classes to, um, having AP classes available, honors classes available, a lot of different like social and academic things to balance. And so I would say, um, if you’re able to like really enjoy your freshman and sophomore year, you don’t need to start your college application that early or this, the college process pretty much that early.
You could wait until your junior fall. Um, again, if, if you want to, you’re more than welcome to. Um, this is just my recommendation. . Um, yes, I would agree with you to, uh, one other thing I said in a response to that was to focus on leadership grades and activities, uh, rather than stressing about the ACT or the SAT during 10th grade.
So I think that’s the other opportunities to fill out your profile, um, rather than focus on the SAT um, in 10th grade. Um, one question that came up just comparing the ACT and the SAT, are the two tests interchangeable and accepted by all schools? Uh, I’m pretty sure they are. I have, I have not yet worked with like a student applying to a school that only accepts the SAT or the ACT.
They’re both just. Standardized tests that are measuring some basic knowledge on English, reading, writing. Um, and again, the ACT does have that science portion for some people who wanna show really strong like science, uh, profile when they’re applying. So usually like pre-meds or others who are applying to engineering or stem, uh, the ACT is, I would say is more recommended just because it has that science portion.
And so you’re able to like highlight your ability to analyze things in the science world. Um, I, again, I know several students who are pre-med who only applied with their SAT. It’s not required. Um, but I think it is if you’re able to take the ACT because you do know how to do that science like portion better.
That’s great. I would also say that like, um, the ACT science portion is not testing again, like really like specific con science content. And so it’s not like you’re showing colleges that all of a sudden, like you, you’re really shine in like biology or chemistry or physics. That was in the past what your SAT subject tests were for.
Um, it just shows that you’re able to analyze in science well, and so again, something that could really help students with a STEM profile, not like required or necessary. Um, yeah, we get a variety of questions in the same way. There’s no score. There’s, the SAT is not necessarily better than the ACT, um, in anything.
It really, you should send the test where you feel like you are doing the best or you have the most competitive score, but you will not be, um, disadvantaged. Um, and someone here specifically asked for out-of-state colleges, um, all universities are looking at both the tests equally the same. They do have conversion rates so they understand what a 36 means in SAT language and vice versa.
Um, but it’s really is up to you which test you take. And, and my advice would be to take the one that you do the best in, um, or you have the strongest four in, uh, okay. Sorry, I was trying to give you a break and also answer this question . Um, that’s problem. Thank you. Yeah, no worries. Um, so a lot of questions around studying.
Um, and so I don’t know if you, some folks have asked what are some resources that they can use to prepare? Would you recommend Khan Academy College Board, if you have ideas about what the best, um, practice tests would be? Um, so yeah, I don’t know if you have general thoughts on studying and, um, resources there.
Yeah, so I definitely, I looked at past tests mostly. So I, like I mentioned, I took a lot of practice tests and where I got that is I went to the college board and I look at past tests. Obviously they’re not gonna recycle those same questions, but they’re gonna with the same like numbers or specifics, but they’re gonna recycle the same style of questions.
And so the more, like, past exams I took, the more I got acquainted with like, oh, I remember seeing the same language. It’s maybe using different numbers or like different scenarios, but like I know how to like answer this question and so. Um, I use college board to find mostly past tasks if you’re looking for a prep course or like a book.
I think the Princeton Review is great. Kaplan is really great college. Um, college board also has its own book and like prep courses. So I would say all of those are great. Ultimately, it’s the same content. It’s just maybe the breakdown of how it’s taught or maybe the people who are teaching it. But I think very genuinely, like as long as you are going through a prep course, going through old tests, like all of those, it’s more about how many hours you put into it, like how much time you put into it, and how much repetition you get with the actual questions.
And um, I think that also for folks who might be younger and taking it when it will be computerized, just know that there’s going to be room for like, changes and error on that test. Um, so if you, there are some opportunities to do the practice test, um, online, but just for folks who are not aware that moving forward, uh, the college board will be providing the test all on computer.
Um, so you still have to go. To take it, but, um, it will not be like pen and paper. Um, I think starting the class in 2025. So just know that the way that you prep for those types of tests might, might be different because the test does different things. Um, when you’re taking it on the computer. That might be overly complicated, but just know that the test, the structure of the test, the delivery of the test is going to change in the future.
Um, okay. This was a question regarding, uh, international students. So this student said, is one test better for Canadian students given that the curriculums are slightly different? Or do you just have general context on for students who might be taking it, um, who are international? Yeah, so I think it, again, just comes down to which content, you know, best.
I don’t think it’s necessarily like, I, I don’t know the specifics of like the, like the Canadian curriculum or like another country. But I would say for you, if you look at the content that’s covered in the ACT and you’re like, okay, I’ve seen that more in school, that might make more sense for you to take.
Then maybe the other test. Um, again, for, as a student in a different country, it might be the other way around, but I would again, refer back to looking through some of the tasks and seeing like, okay, this is something, this covers something that I learned. This doesn’t cover it. What, where do you have to, uh, study more for it to cover that gap in like content?
Um, and I would say again, like, make your life easier to make sure to start off with the task that you feel more comfortable with. Um, when it comes to like already looking at, like, again, the science portion on the ACT, maybe that’s something that you don’t really cover too much in school, or maybe it’s something that you really focused on.
Like maybe you had a class that was just on like. Um, like data analysis or like more quantitative, like reading through charts and being able to analyze and that’s fantastic. Again, that might be a signal that the a c t might be better for you. Um, so I would, I would, again, think about your individual context.
Uh, it may also change, like, uh, from one Canadian student to another. You might have learned the same curriculum, but maybe different things stuck. And so I. More than a country-based approach, I would take a personalized approach to what you think are you’re best at. Thanks. Um, so this is one question regarding timing.
So this student is graduating early, I guess they’re graduating winter of 2023, a semester before they, you know, the rest of their class night if, should they still be taking the SAT? Does the SAT change at all or do standardized tests change at all if the student happens to graduate early from high school?
Yeah, so this is all based on like when you’re, when the college cycle is. So as long as you’re not graduating like a full year early and you’re in like a different class altogether, you still are have to abide by the college like timeline. And so if the college timeline is like usually early dis uh, early applications in November, regular decisions in January, then you still should go by like those rules.
Maybe it means like you have more time to prep, uh, because you’re like. Almost ending your courses in the, in the fall. But what I would say is like still, if you still have classes during that fall, um, I would still follow that timeline of ma making sure that you have your essays during the summer, maybe taking the standardized test earlier on.
Um, I think it’s, it’s more based on if you have a lot of time that fall, maybe it’s not as much of a rush. Um, but if you are just as like, jam-packed because you still have classes that semester, then I would say go through the same, um, timeline that I’ve been suggesting about, again, taking the SAT or the standardized tests earlier on in your junior year or like, you know, spring of your junior year and then doing your essays in the summer.
Um, yeah, I think that that connects to another question that came around timing. So are there certain administrations of the SAT that you would recommend over others? So just to repeat, uh, what Maria said, shared that as a junior you should look to take it in the spring, um, and then focus on your essays during the summer.
And then if you need to, I think last minute to take it, uh, August or September of your senior year, but usually trying to give yourself some time into in the spring to improve or look at areas of growth if you do not get the score that you want to get, um, in that first sitting. But usually taking the PSAT in 10th grade, the SAT Junior of spring year, of spring of junior year, and then possibly again, Fall of senior year.
Um, someone asked the question, would you still recommend doing your best on these tests if you don’t plan on going to an Ivy League school? Yeah, absolutely. I would say as long as you are turning in a test, you should still try your absolute best because it’s something that like, I mean, okay, so realistically speaking, there’s different acceptance rates for different colleges and they might be looking at different things with more weight.
For an Ivy League school, like yes, there is definitely more weight on some of your academic rigor because the higher the ranking, the more, uh, you can expect to be pretty much worked academically in college. And so they wanna make sure that you are prepared for that environment. Therefore, you should really show a history of like, I can take academic rigor.
I’ve challenged myself, I do, I do well on task. I, I do well in my classes pretty much. Um, for schools that are not as high ranking, you should still try your best because you never know like who, who’s in your pool of applicants. And as long as it’s not like a school where, um, you know, everybody gets in and there’s some that are like that, you usually, those don’t necessarily require like a very high a t maybe they’re just requiring like a passing rate and like, okay, that makes sense.
Um, maybe that’s not, you’re not a great test degree and you don’t want to like stress yourself out with that when you’re also trying to join your, your senior year. So I would say that, um, you should still, again, try your best in everything that you do. I think that’s like the foundation. But if you are going, if you’re applying to schools where again, you either there is like no, um, no like limit to acceptance or you just need to have this passing rate.
Maybe you spend your energy a little bit more on your essays or you spend your energy more on your classes. That makes sense. But if there is an, like an acceptance rate that is like, Anywhere again, above like eight, like or below like 80, 85. Like usually that, that means that like you’re competing against others to get in.
And what you don’t want is potentially somebody who has a really great score, potentially the same student profile as you, and then like they have that extra data point of a really great score for somebody else. And that can really tip the, the balance to that person. And so again, I would say on the whole, regardless of what school you’re applying to, it’s always best to try your best in everything so that you don’t have regrets afterwards.
But I would say like realistically yes, in a knowing that you, like all the high school students are balancing a lot of things, maybe the amount of energy that you put into something has to be allocated differently for different students. Um, but I would say even if you’re not doing an Ivy League, there’s a lot of schools that are still very competitive and are not Ivy leagues.
And you should still be trying your best for those. Um, this is just a clarifying question. Um, is it possible to submit a PSAT score in the common app in the college app, especially for those that are not, that are not test optional? Uh, no, not that I know of. I really haven’t seen anyone submit a PSAT.
I’ve seen people submit like, if you made it to like National Merit as like an honor, um, like that’s something you should actually not even, like, you could, you definitely should, um, put that down as like an academic honor. But when they’re asking for standardized tests, they really are asking for the SAT or the ACT, um, in that way, obviously, like there’s also the AP test, there’s also like your TOEFL, if you’re international and you need to prove science, if you’re coming from, um, a country that’s not, their first language is not English, then like that, you might need to show English proficiency.
And those are like separate cases. But when it comes to ACT/SAT, those are the ones that they’re accepting for the standardized tasks.
There was a question that came to me separately of like, should you take the s a t march of your senior year? You could, if you are applying to colleges that are rolling at mission, so most colleges will have, um, most colleges will have January deadlines, and so the March is going to be too late. Uh, but if you’re planning to apply to schools that require the SAT or the ACT, um, and they have ruling admissions, so they’re always considering applications, then yes.
But if you’re applying to schools that have a January, February deadline, March, um, exams are probably gonna be too late for them to consider as part of your application, unless the college says somewhere that they’ll accept updated SAT scores, which they might. But, um, uh, to, I think a point Maria made at the beginning, you need to check in with what that colleges specific test score requirements are, especially around dates.
I’m so sorry. Um, this is a random question related to Harvard. Were all of your APs accepted? So I feel like there have been a couple AP test questions, um, that it might be helpful to address here as well. So how are AP test scores evaluated? Are they necessarily accepted at every school? Yeah, so I think it’s good to parse through like what does AP test acceptance mean?
They’ll always be accepted as like a course that you took, right? That’s still like part of like your high school requirements. It’s still take it into like deep consideration about did this student challenged themselves? Uh, like those are all taken into consideration for acceptance into a university.
So I’d say yes, Harvard definitely looked at my scores for my APs and definitely considered them when they were looking at like my academic portion of my application. where I would say like, not all schools accept AP as college credits. So some schools will take your APs and say like, okay, this person passed the AP exam, or like for whatever threshold they have, some schools have a four or a five even, uh, as like the threshold to accept the, the credit as a college credit.
Um, even though passing is three. So some schools may deci, uh, do decide like, okay, this person took this AP test, um, let’s count it as their college credit. Harvard did not do that. I think most Ivy Leagues don’t do that. They really want you to, if you’re, you know, going to their school, paying to go to their school on scholarship to go to their school, they want you to take that class with their own professors.
Um, to be honest, I think some of the Harvard classes were a lot harder than my AP equivalent, and some were easier than my AP equivalent and. It really is very variable. Um, and what I would say is like taking a class, even, uh, a lot of students, especially when they’re in high school, like have this mentality of like, I just need to, like, check things off my list.
But something that’s really great about like, going to college, and especially at least for my, my personal experience at Harvard was I got to take really awesome classes with like experts in their field from all over the world. And so even though I took my AP test, I had a lot more fun. Or like, I took that AP class, I had a lot more fun, learned more, made better connections with a professor who liked this was like their bread and butter because I took the class again at Harvard.
And so again, , some schools will take it. You may decide like, oh, I wanna retake this class because like the professor teaching it is like, awesome and like, I really wanna do it. Um, most Ivy schools will ask you to retake the class. They won’t actually take it, um, by credit. But, um, what could happen is like you might be able to take like a higher level class because you showed that you took the AP class, um, like you took a really high level class.
And so in college maybe that allows you to like get a step further and be eligible to take a higher level course. So I would say in summary, the two ways that AP test can help you in the scenario of like an Ivy League school that doesn’t take it as college credit is one, it could help you actually get into the school because it shows academic rigor.
So one data point off. And two, it could help you actually three, then two, it could help you, uh, level up to another class sooner without having to take some of the prerequisites. Um, and three, even if you’re not able to level up and you have to take a class again. So this was my, uh, my experience at Harvard.
I took AP calculus AB and AP Calculus BC. I did well on both, on both tests, but I still had to go into um, like, uh, like calculus, pretty much college level calculus at Harvard. And because I had taken my AP exams, I actually was so much more prepared to do well in my college class. And so I would say those are some of the benefits, even if Harvard didn’t accept the class as a college credit.
Thanks for that. Um, alright, so while Maria’s sneezing, again, we’re gonna do just a quick fyi. So for those of you who are in the room and are not already working with CollegeAdvisor, we know that it’s an overwhelming process. You obviously have a ton of questions and our team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family navigate it all in 101 advising sessions.
You can use the QR code that is on the screen to sign up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admission specialist on our team. Uh, during that meeting, we’ll review your current extracurricular list, your application strategy, and discuss how everything aligns with your college list, um, and outline the tools you’ll need in order to stand out.
Um, alright, so again, we’ll keep that QR code up there if you are interested in working with and, and, uh, collaborating with CollegeAdvisor. But we’ll get back to the questions. Um, this question is a scenario. Uh, so some teachers told me not to retake the SAT so many times as it would look bad for me.
Is that true? Can I retake it as many times as I want and submit the score that I am most proud of? Um, so I think like there is, there’s wisdom behind not taking it. As many times. So I think the question is like, well, how much is too much? Um, my personal, what I heard also, uh, like when I was in high school is like, don’t take it more than like four times was like the number that like I was given.
Um, I haven’t heard like a specific, like, you know, if you take it more than X number of times, like, you know, it’s terrible. I would say the wisest thing to do is like, not take it more than four or five times. Uh, I think after that it’s becomes a little bit more like, well one, like what, what is really increasing?
Are you increasing by a lot? Um, is it more so like you are like going up like a couple points in each one and you just wanna super score? Um, and so I think at some point it does, it doesn’t look great to have it as many times. My personal limit test again was four. Um, I think that there is a threshold of how much you could actually take it.
Um, do you know, do you happen to know what that is? I don’t. I don’t know. I feel like it probably is four. I have also heard that like four is the cutoff of like how many times you should take it. I could imagine the college board cutting you off perhaps at like six. Um, because I know that that’s how many fee waivers you, you, I think you can get up to four fee waivers on it, on it as well.
So I feel like that’s the, the cutoff. Um, I mean, yeah, and I think here, sorry. It says, um, you can take it technically as many times as you want, but I do think that after four it starts not looking great. I’ve heard four doesn’t look great, but I, I think it depends on the admissions officer. I, I usually say two is two should do you right.
If you have to take it a third time or maybe something happened, you know, your second time. I think that that’s okay. But I think at some point admissions officers start to look at it like mm-hmm, they’re watching your practice tests. Like they don’t, they don’t need to see all of your practice tests essentially.
So, mm-hmm, um, to your point Maria, about like, it’s about seeing your improvement on it. Um, and then I know that you get to do school, you get to super score, right? So, You get to take it, you get to submit the highest of, for each section. So if you’re, you’re only gonna have two tests to choose from really, um, you’re, they’re only gonna take your highest reading.
And I think sometimes there’s some concern there if they see four, four sittings of, of you really taking, I’ve heard four. Okay. Um, I won’t repeat that anymore, but Thanks. Um, the one question is, did the ACT or does the ACT or SAT help with scholarships? Yeah, so I would say for both of those tasks, like you can, uh, some of the outside scholarships, some.
So, uh, I guess, uh, foundational, like just, uh, content to share is like, there is, uh, like institutional scholarships, so university scholarships that the school itself gives you. And then there’s outside scholarships, which are scholarships that you can apply to outside of the college. So there might be some in college scholarships that are given to a certain number of students who do really well, like academically.
Maybe some for like community service, maybe some for athletics. And so your SAT/ACT score could be something considered in an internal scholarship. There’s also outside scholarships that are similar to, like the application process include like some essays, your transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, and those scores could also help you get an outside scholarship.
Some are just based on SAT and ACT. And so those definitely would include, um, your scores there. There have been some questions regarding how to recover from a, uh, lower test score. Um, and I would say to Maria’s point previously about practice tests, looking back at your performance over the practice test, the specific areas where you’re challenging, where you’re, that you’re experiencing challenges.
But then also I feel like the first time you, you take the SAT I would request the, um, I’m forgetting what it’s called, but like the test analysis so that you can see specific sections or types of questions that were tripping you, tripping you up. Um, and then I also really like the Khan Academy as a resource because they break down each of the sections.
Um, so if you’re, if you’re taking it and you’re worried. Score. I would say looking at the test analysis, looking at your performances specific sections, and then perhaps targeting your, um, study plan to address the sections where you, where you knew you struggled. Because again, if you do well in one section, that score is gonna count for you already.
So then maybe in your study plan, focusing on improving, um, your scores in another section. I don’t know if you have additional thoughts to that of just how to improve one score in between tests. No, that’s perfect. I think for some students it’s helpful to just continue taking a lot of tests. For some, it’s like, you know, I, I definitely need a tutor in this one area.
Um, so like, maybe you did really well in all the, all your other sections, but math is one that like you just really need to improve on. And so maybe you take, like, maybe you get, you hire a tutor just for math, and that could be something that really.
Well, that was a question that someone had asked earlier of like, oh, you know, asking about your study approach. Did you practice for both tests? Did you use a tutor? Did you use an outside class? What was your, um, if you feel comfortable sharing what your study plan was? Yeah, so I, again, uh, I was a fir like first gen college applicant.
I had no idea how to study for anything. And so my school just said, Hey, like, we got this grant where we have this online course where you like, learn this section. It was pretty much not even an online course, it was just like a ton of practice sections and we just had to do sections for like our class.
And so I took a ton of practice sections and they took a ton of practice tests. So I, I took my first SAT with just that prep. Uh, after I took my first SAT I wanted to super score specifically in the math, and so I got a tutor to just help me with the math. Um, and then after that, just using what I learned from there, um, used an SAT book, practice book to help me just translate some of my knowledge from the SAT to learn more about the ACT.
So I actually used like self-study then like a little bit of tutor and then a little bit of prep. Like book, um, as, as my, my strategy. Thanks for sharing, um, all of that context. Okay. Someone said, can we clarify super score? I can do that cuz I, I brought it up. But, um, yeah, for sure. Um, super score, essentially there are two sections on the SAT.
There’s your, um, reading and then there’s your math. So the way that colleges will interpret your score is that if you’ve taken the SAT three times, they will only count. The highest reading score, even if that’s from your first test, and they’ll count your highest math score if that’s from your third test.
So they will look at whatever the highest score for that individual section is across however many times you’ve taken it. Um, so just know that that is also why you might caution of taking it too many times. Um, because if they have to pull from too many different tests or they. Test, but, um, the super scores, essentially your highest reading from whatever sitting whenever you took it.
And your highest, um, math specifically on the SAT I believe the ACT also super scores. If you submit multiple, multiple sittings, they will look at your highest composite, um, from, or your highest, sorry, um, for each section in order to build a deposit for you.
Yes. They will super score the ACT as well. Okay. Um, do we have different feelings about the frequency of which we someone should take the ACT or would you say similar advice on the ACT versus the SAT? Yeah, I would say similar advice. Um, yeah, I, I think they’re both interchangeable and so I, I would say for each one, my recommendation is don’t take it more than
like the ideal is like twice, you know, three times it could happen. Two, four is already pushing the line for uh, and I wouldn’t say like a total, like it’s like one SAT, one ACT is two tests. And I would say for each test going, no, no, um, not over, uh, three total. Um, do universities look at state standardized tests or do they only look at ACT/SAT and APs?
I’m sorry, can you repeat that? Um, the question is do universities look at standardized tests required for the state that a student lives in or do they only look at the ACT and the SAT and APs cuz those are national tests? Um, I would say I’ve only really seen standardized tests that are national tests.
I haven’t actually seen a state test apart from like, You know, when you’re younger, you might take like a standardized test. Like for me it was the FCAT, like the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in each state, I think has their own, um, for college application processes. I think it’s nationwide because you do get a lot of students coming out of state.
Yeah. I will say it might be different for state specific colleges. So, um, if you’re in like a regional, so UCs don’t count, but like UT, I, I know the UT system, they. Texas specific test that they might look at in New York. You, they will look at the Regents exams, but again, mostly the state university or city University of New York schools.
So it might be regional, so it might be the public schools in your state will consider those state tests. Um, but. Any private, um, or out-of-state colleges may not consider them. Yeah. Um, wow. That was our last question. Uh, that went by very quickly. There were a ton of questions coming in. Um, thank you so much Maria, uh, for all of your time and thoughtfulness in addressing these questions while you have a cold.
Um, so definitely appreciative. Um, that is the end of our webinar. Um, thank you for joining us tonight. We hope you gained some tips, um, and helpful strategies for navigating the ACT and the SAT. Also, we hope you’ll join us for the remaining webinars that we have this month before the holiday holiday season.
We will have a a, a session with writing MIT supplemental essays on the 19th, and we will tackle the University of Chicago supplemental essays on the 21st for any seniors who are out there still wanting support on those essays. Otherwise, we hope to see you soon and until next time, have a great evening.
Thanks again, Maria. Okay, thanks. Bye everyone.